Suing Big Companies In Small Claims Court Is Fun And Easy

Taking a big company to small claims court sounds like a big hassle but reader Bill has done it successfully three times. He says the time and effort spent on taking a company to small claims court is far less then how it long it takes to get companies to fix above-average in complexity problems.

Here’s his typical expenditure for a small claims suit: $24 and 45 minutes. The $24 is the cost to file a claim. The 45 minutes includes his total time of driving to and from court to file, as well as the time spent on the phone with the company when they call to settle.

See, in all cases, he hasn’t even had to go to court: the company calls him up the day before the court date and gives him a settlement. It seems they prefer to do that then pay to fly a company representative who isn’t fully versed on all the facts to court. Here’s his true story of how he got what he deserved from Tmobile and Washington Mutual, without breaking a sweat.

Bill writes:

Twice I have taken T-Mobile to Small Claims court. Each time I asked for payment of my many hours of time, to have early termination fees waived and to have money refunded to me for equipment that never worked. Each time they have called me and settled for what I was asking. Then I would tell them to apply the settlement to my account. Since I’m a heavy user of my cell phone and I know that changing companies is just another set of headaches, I opt to stay put. Mostly because I know how to fight this monster. In those two cases combined, I have got my $2912.00 back. Settling the case.

Washington Mutual bank had taken overdraft fees of $58.00 even though the check was deposited and they didn’t clear it when they said it was immediately available. I took them to small claims and asked for $2,058.00. $2000 for the impact it caused and for punitive. They called 7 days before the court date and sent me a check, settling the case for exactly what I asked for. I have not had a problem with them since.

It important to note that corporations can’t use an attorney in small claims and they have to send (fly) a representative that is NOT fully versed on the facts. It’s easier to just pay from their point of view. In small claims, they are stripped of their lawyers and the odds are in favor of the consumer. [ed. Depends. In some states, companies can send their lawyers.]

The bigger point that I’m making here is that perhaps to the average consumer this is a lot of hassle. However, if a reasonable person was to take a look at this from a time management point of view, here was my total investment in money and time: $24 to file the small claims, 45 minutes total on each case, that includes driving to the court to file and talking with them on the phone once to get the settlement.

It’s understandable why consumers do not want to sue and to try to work it out. But in reality, that is a lot of aggravation, time for the least amount of gain. However, the satisfaction of wining and getting paid for it is unbeatable. Now, I do not get upset or angry, I just wait for them to play their games and I sue. No warning, no anger and no headaches.

Taking a big company to small claims court of course only applies when you have been legitimately and materially wronged by the company. We’re not talking about spurious claims and people trying to unfairly profit. I make this caveat because I know someone is going to freak out in the comments about hurting the poor company and frittering away tax dollars and how baseless lawsuits make services expensive for the rest of us.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s some posts we did on how to take a company to small claims court:

How To Take Your Case To Small Claims Court
Here’s a state-by-state index of links to small claims court papers and brochures.

(Illustration: Leo Espinosa)

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