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suing lawyer in small claims court


123generic's Avatar
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12-26-16, 09:10 AM   #1 (permalink)  
suing lawyer in small claims court

Question is, judge or jury trial?

Short version:

Did construction type work for a LLP law office, contact is refusing to pay. All services delivered, no warranty issues, etc.. Firm's refusal to pay hinged on property manager (third party funding that we were not aware of) and an item included on another company's bid (not on our bid although we offered to install for free if they purchased (six months behind on their bill)).

Contacted the local bar association referral service and spoke to three attorneys, in person. Each looked over the documentation and said the lawyer has to pay.

Was advised that legal help would be necessary if/when there is an appeal, but until then, try to keep the legal costs to a minimum.

Filed with the county, court date is now set.

I plan on attending civil court to get a general idea of the judge and prep that may be needed.


Last edited by 123generic; 12-26-16 at 11:57 AM. Reason: edited amount out
 
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12-26-16, 09:19 AM   #2 (permalink)  
While I don't know for sure I always thought that small claims court was judge only - no jury.


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12-26-16, 09:20 AM   #3 (permalink)  
Here it is an option. Costs $22.

 
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12-26-16, 09:54 AM   #4 (permalink)  
Small claims would be judge only. IF it were a trail that could go to a jury, that would be up to the lawyers and that would only happen if one of you didn't want to settle on an amount and that would be well over the small courts limit.


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12-26-16, 11:59 AM   #5 (permalink)  
I served on a small claims court jury a while back. Think the amount in question was 5k-ish, was over an aborted wedding.

Was provided these links in my search, thinking I'll go judge then if/when appealed, jury with a lawyer:


http://litigation.findlaw.com/going-...ry-trials.html

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encycloped...faq-29139.html

 
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12-26-16, 12:06 PM   #6 (permalink)  
the links come up page error at FindLaw

Most small claims courts are limited to suits under 5k .... but different jurisdictions sometimes have different limits.


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12-26-16, 12:20 PM   #7 (permalink)  
Unless you take action in a Federal court, which is rarely an option, all other courts are STATE courts and are governed by rules set by the specific state. That means that what might be the rule in Tennessee or Pennsylvania is NOT necessarily the rule in Texas.

Generally speaking, small claims courts do not have the power to enforce their rulings, specific states may differ on this point. What this means is that while you may win a judgement in small claims court the court cannot do anything to force the loser into paying the claim. For that you need to file in the court of general jurisdiction. (There is a legal term for this court but it slips my mind at the moment.) In most states this will be called the Superior Court of a specific county but it IS a state court. The filings will be more involved and the fees higher but the court can also issue writs of attachment or the like to ensure the payment of any judgements.

 
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12-26-16, 12:26 PM   #8 (permalink)  
You might be referring to a judgement. My wife has a judgement against a former employer for non payment. That was in Virginia and the judgement is good for 20 yrs but no real way to enforce payment unless the person buys/sells property or wins the lotto.

What is really crazy is she had to pay income tax on both the non payments and the rubber checks


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12-26-16, 02:08 PM   #9 (permalink)  
judgement in small claims court the court cannot do anything to force the loser into paying the claim
In Michigan you can garnish wages to collect!

 
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12-27-16, 09:20 AM   #10 (permalink)  
Generally speaking, the more you have the letter of the law on your side, the more you would lean toward a judge trial. If the area is more grey/based on opinion, you would lean toward the jury which might be swayable (might have made up a word, there) toward your opinion.

Based on what you have said about this being a contract and the interpretation of the contract leading to the opinion you should be paid, I would lean toward a judge over a jury.

 
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12-27-16, 10:40 AM   #11 (permalink)  
Go to your state's web site for an explanation of the small claims process. I'm in MA and have gone to small claims court and the process is different from what other responders have said.

 
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12-27-16, 10:53 AM   #12 (permalink)  
The LLP isn't returning emails or phone calls requesting payment. Our last attempt to contact them could best be described as professional, courteous, and accommodating. They probably viewed it as weak. We wrote it knowing this wouldn't go anywhere but small claims court and in front of a judge.


Personally, I hate wasting people's time and resources. Jurors would have to miss work and I'd assume not all are salaried employees.

As we'd like to get paid for our services and are searching for the best strategy. I'm thinking no jury.

 
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12-27-16, 12:01 PM   #13 (permalink)  
Don't let inconveniencing others factor into your decision, this is all the fault of the company refusing to pay you. At least based on what you've said

 
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12-27-16, 07:19 PM   #14 (permalink)  
In California a contractor can file a lien for non-payment. I won't go over the rules.

Again this is CA but the small claims is generally:
- $7K max
- No legal representation, you address the court


Brian

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12-28-16, 04:34 AM   #15 (permalink)  
From the OP's description, it sounded like services were rendered on multiple properties, or at multiple locations, and on multiple dates , , , , so filing a Lien on each might not be practical.

i

 
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