What happens in small claims court?


Attorney Tom Olsen: Small claims court is really about people going in and doing thing themselves. The clerks will give them the forms and tell them how to do it step by step. And again, it's for matters that are under $5,000. Some people may still be intimidated by going to small claims court and thinking, “I have to put on a trial in front of the judge”. But, the good news is that in any action, especially in small claims court, before you ever see a judge, they make you use a mediator. They give you an opportunity to work it out, not in front of a judge, but just a professional mediator. Just an opportunity to talk back and forth between the people and try to see if they can bring a resolution. 

Attorney Rob Solomon: That's right. In small claims court that is standard operating procedure. You literately get what's called a court date, but really it's a mediation date. You go in, you see if you can mediate it, and if you walk out of that mediation and there's what we call an impasse and you couldn't mediate it, that's when you get your real court date. So, I always tell people when they go to mediation, I don't care what their complaint is, I don't care how righteous they feel they are, money in hands is worth way more than the risk and the uncertainty and the collection of money six months later. Mediating things is a great place to get some money, to compromise. Compromise has got a negative connotation, but not when it comes to mediation. Get what you can and avoid, if you can, the risk of further litigation.