Q: A customer is suing me in small-claims court for breach of contract. What should I do?
A: Dear Questions:
First and foremost, do not ignore this claim. Just because it’s small-claims court, does not mean that it’s not as “real” as regular court. What makes small-claims court different is that the court only handles minor monetary disputes, typically limited to between $3,000 and $10,000. Common cases involve matters like failure to refund a security deposit, failure to repay a loan, and failure to satisfy a warranty.
While such matters can often be handled privately or through mediation without court intervention, that’s not always the case. Given this, small-claims court is the place to go for resolution of these disputes, often without the need for a lawyer’s help.
If you know you’re at fault, you might offer to resolve the matter immediately. But if you do so, make sure to get a full release of all future claims signed and ensure the court case is closed out completely.
If you do not believe you’re at fault, follow the instructions given to you with the small-claims court complaint. Be sure you calendar all dates, so you don’t inadvertently miss a time to respond or an important court date. If you don’t show up for a required court appearance, the court could issue a judgment against you, even if you’re in the right.
You generally don’t need a lawyer present, and a few states even require you to come alone. But unless your state prohibits it, you may want us to assist with your defense—or at least advise you on how to proceed.
For specific guidance on your case, contact a Creative Business Lawyer®.