How To Take Your Case To Small Claims Court

Small claims or conciliation court provides a way for individuals to settle their differences with the help of a neutral referee or judge.

Inside, some tips to help you win your case in conciliation court.

The price of admission is generally low, between $50 and $100 most places. The plaintiff (the person who starts the case) files a short statement of the claim, pays the filing fee, and serves the defendant either by mail or by using the sheriff or other third party for personal service.

Conciliation court is a great place for consumers to get some justice. Before bringing your claim, however, you will want to check with your state’s conciliation court to make sure you can actually bring your case. Generally, the defendant you intend to sue must have some personal or business presence in the state. Also, the amount of money you are seeking will probably have to fall beneath a certain amount. In Minnesota, for example, the total amount of the claim must be below $7,500.

You can probably find the complaint forms and other information on your state’s or county’s website. Fill them out carefully and completely, and bring them to court to file.

Here are a few more tips for your day in court:

* Spend a bit of time watching the daytime court shows. Seriously. Other than the judge’s sass, they’re not too different from conciliation court. Notice what the litigants do wrong.

* Bring all your exhibits and witnesses with you to court. Make an extra copy of documents, and keep them organized.

* Focus on the logical reason you should win. So often I see people want to tell their story. (A) There isn’t time, and (B) it’s irrelevant. Stick to the facts and why they matter.

* Always show respect for the judge or referee. They are the ones who decide whether you win or lose. The no-fail method of address is “your honor.”

Conciliation court is a great way for consumers to get some justice in the courts. Build your case carefully and present it as professionally as you can, and good luck on your day in court! SAM GLOVER

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.