Generally, the judge's decision is announced at the end of a small claims trial. However, sometimes the judge wants to take additional time to review the evidence or research case law before entering a final judgment. When this occurs, the parties receive a copy of the final judgment in the mail.
Motion for a New Trial
If the parties feel the judge has made an error, they have 10 days from the date the judgment is signed by the judge to file for a rehearing with the clerk of court. The motion must specifically state the reason a new trial is requested.
The court rules on the motion by deciding whether or not there are grounds for a new hearing. The court examines the motion and either grants a new hearing with notice or denies the motion.
An unsatisfied party has the right to appeal a judgment to the superior court. However, the procedures for appealing a judgment are complex so it's best to consult an experienced attorney. Also, detailed instructions for filing a small claims appeal are available from the clerk of the court.
An appeal is not a new trial. The superior court reviews the law used to decide the case. You're not allowed to present new facts or retry old facts. The right of appeal from a judgment exists for 30 days after the judgment is entered.
Vermont Rules of Small Claims Procedure
The Vermont Rules of Small Claims Procedure govern the appeal to the superior court. There's no absolute right to appeal from the superior court's decision rendered in an appeal.
Correcting an Error
Either party may file a motion requesting the small claims court to correct a clerical mistake in a judgment, order or other parts of the record. The motion may be made at any time.
Motion for Relief
Either party may file a motion requesting relief from a final judgment, order or proceeding for these reasons:
- Mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect
- Newly discovered evidence
- Fraud, misrepresentation or other misconduct
- The judgment is void
- The judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged
- A prior judgment on which the judgment is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated
- It's no longer equitable for the judgment to be applied
Questions for Your Attorney
- Is the appeals process expensive, and how often are appeals filed in small claims cases?
- Could you review my small claims case and tell me whether I should file any motions for relief from judgment?
- What is newly discovered evidence? Can I base a motion for relief on newly discovered evidence only if it wasn't available to me at the time of trial?