If you own a Business,
chances are you’ve encountered at least a couple disputes with customers or other businesses. While working with the other party to resolve the dispute on your own is generally the better approach for keeping relationships intact, that course doesn’t always work for everyone.
Perhaps because dollar limits have risen in recent years, businesses are increasingly turning to small claims court to help them resolve problems such as customers who aren’t paying their bills, or suppliers or contractors who fail to deliver as promised. In Wisconsin, small claims court will handle claims of up to $10,000 for financial judgments, $25,000 for repossessions and $5,000 for personal injury. The limit for Minnesota, where small claims go through “Conciliation Court,” is also $10,000 for general claims.
can be a good solution for businesses because it’s the simpler, quicker, and less-expensive way to resolve business disputes. Filing fees generally are less than $100 in Wisconsin. That compares with filing fees of more than $250 for a civil action. Cases in small claims court are heard more quickly. They generally come before the court within a month or so compared with several months or years for traditional courts.
While many businesses will consult an attorney to determine whether they have a valid claim, learn nuances about the law or help in resolving the matter short of filing a complaint, they are not required to have attorneys argue their cases. Businesses that choose to consult attorneys and have those attorneys appear in court with them are entitled to recover some of the fees if they win.
As in traditional court, each side will have a chance to present it’s evidence. The key is to be certain you’re prepared. This is another point where businesses often look to attorneys for advice about the rules and effective ways to present the case. Generally, you’ll need the following in order to prove your case:
-Documents, receipts and any communication, including electronic exchanges, between you and the opposing party.
-Witnesses who can affirm your position in the case. Keep in mind that written statements or affidavits will not suffice. While friends and family may be happy to appear on you behalf, professionals and others who may not have a vested interest to appear in person may need to be subpoenaed and paid a witness fee, including mileage. If you win, these fees may be added to any judgment.
Additionally, you’ll want to examine the dispute from the opposing party’s stance. If you were in their shoes, how would you argue? What evidence would you present? Prepare appropriate rebuttals to refute their claims.
Once you get to small claims court, the session begins with the plaintiff representing his case. This is the point where you introduce all the above-mentioned evidence. The defendant then gets to respond with his defense. Both sides may cross-examine each other, and the judge or commissioner may also ask questions.
This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment recovery expert, and am not a lawyer, If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.