You've been preparing for your small claims case for a while now. You've arranged for witnesses to be at trial and you have all the receipts and other documents ready. It's getting close to the time for the judge of the Utah small claims court to make a decision.
Now's a good time to get an idea of what happens after the small claims trial is over. What can you do if you win? What if you lose? Whether you're the plaintiff (the person who filed the suit) or the defendant (the person who's being sued), you should know about some of your options.
It's the beginning of the end of the case when the judge makes a decision in the case, that is, who won. The decision is called a judgment. The judge can announce the judgment:
- Immediately at the end of the case, and either give each party a copy of the judgment or send it to them in the mail
- After taking some time to think about the case and all of the evidence. This is called taking the case "under advisement." The judge will then mail a copy of the decision to each party
The judgment will state how much, if anything, the defendant owes the plaintiff. If the defendant filed a "Cross Affidavit" claiming that the plaintiff owed the defendant money, the judgment will also state how much, if anything, the plaintiff owes.
Not Happy about the Judgment?
Win or lose, you may have some options if you don't like the way the case turned out:
This is when you ask a higher court to look at the case because you think the judge made a mistake, either about the facts of the case or in applying the law to the case.
In Utah, either the plaintiff or the defendant can appeal a decision from the small claims court. You have to file an appeal within 30 days after the judgment was entered in the court records, which is usually the same day the court announces its decision. You need to file a "Notice of Appeal," and pay a fee. The clerk of the district or justice court where the suit was filed can get you the form and the current fee amount.
If the small claims case was filed in Salt Lake County or Davis County and you appeal, you'll be required to mediate the case before the appeal is scheduled for trial. Mediation is when a neutral third party (called a "mediator") helps you and the other party settle the matter and come to an agreement that satisfies you both. Mediation isn't required, however, if you tried to mediate the case before it went to trial in the small claims court.
An appeal can be a complex matter. It's a lot more formal than the small claims trial, and more stringent court rules apply. It's a good idea to talk to an attorney if you're thinking about appealing.
Dismissal and Default
If your Affidavit or Counter Affidavit was dismissed because you didn't show up for trial, or if the other party got a "default judgment" because you didn't show up for trial, you can re-file your claim after you complete and file a "Motion to Set Aside Dismissal or Default Judgment." It has to be filed within 15 days after the dismissal or default judgment. And, you have to show a good reason why you didn't appear at trial, such as illness. If the judge grants your motion, a new trial will be scheduled.
If your Affidavit or Counter Affidavit is dismissed with prejudice, you can't file your claim again. If it's dismissed without prejudice, you can file new Affidavit or Counter Affidavit without filing a Motion to Set Aside, but you have to pay filing fees again.
If you're the plaintiff and you win the case (or the defendant and you win on your Counter Affidavit), and the judge orders the defendant to pay all or some of your claim, you need to begin collection efforts if the defendant doesn't pay you as ordered in the judgment. This may include having to appear at one or more hearings and possibly even taking some of the defendant's property and belongings. This can be a long and complicated process that may require the help of an attorney.
Questions for Your Attorney
- If I appeal, can I present new evidence or witnesses that I didn't have during the trial in small claims court?
- Can you represent me on an appeal from small claims judgment? How much will charge?
- Can I file a counterclaim against the plaintiff when I appeal a judgment that was entered against me in small claims court?
Related Resources on Lawyers.comsm
- Start the process with our Utah Small Claims Worksheet
- Next in the Small Claims series: Collecting a Judgment in Utah
- Success In Small Claims Court
- Small Claims Court Terms
- Defending a Small Claims Court Case
- Visit our Small Claims Court Forum for more help