CMA Member Poll: Have you personally used the Small Claims Court to help collect past due accounts? (248 responses)
- Yes I have used the Small Claims Court: 40%
- I have not personally, but our company does: 12%
- No I have not: 47%
- Other: 1%
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I would rather just turn it over to CMA to get collected instead of using Small Claims.
Yes, I have used small claims court many times but mainly for collection of NSF checks that I could not get the customer to pay up front. I use a NSF check letter that is sent out by way of certified mail for verification that the customer has been contacted which also proves to the court that they have been notified.
All such cases have been won with payment in full by customer……
When all else fails, small claims court is an option. I can’t remember the exact cost in CA, but it was less than $100.00 to file a claim. If the defendant doesn’t show, and you win your case you will still have to collect. I saw a few comments stating on this board stating how difficult it is to collect, but I disagree.
After you win your case there are a couple highly effective legal ways to collect. You can file a request to value the defendant’s assets. This requires the defendant to show up at court and divulge all of their assets. If they fail to comply with this request, a warrant for their arrest can be issued if you choose to do so for an additional $50.00. Once they are in custody the judge can force them to disclose their assets and place a lien on those assets until their debt is paid. This will also prevent them from being able to sell their assets until their debt to you has been paid.
Another option (in CA) is to have the sheriff’s department do a Till Tap. This is where the sheriff goes into the business and takes money to pay your judgment from a cash register.
I’ve found that judgment debtors tend to ignore all court orders until the day before the warrant is issued for their arrest…then they call and beg to settle.
If at all possible settle, negotiate or compromise before going court!
The legal process is time & cost consuming.
However, it is a highly effective way of getting a judgment on the debtor that they can only escaped from by filing Bankruptcy! Remember, judgements are sometimes worthless.
Thanks & Good Luck!
We have used Small Claims Courts a few times in the last year alone and have had good success in either being paid prior to the court date or getting a default judgement due to the defendant being a no-show.
I would love to use the the small claims process. Perhaps CMA could put on a webinar or seminar on it? I would love to attend.
I handle the Small Claims in Las Vegas Nevada for all of our members that have Vegas accounts and I have only lost 1 in 5 years it is a good way to collect but it is time consuming. I am not sure where the person that made the comment about you have to have an attorney to handle this is you are a corp. but that is not the case. Please see (NRS 73.012 Representation of nongovernmental legal or commercial entity by its director, officer or employee. A corporation, partnership, business trust, estate, trust, association or any other nongovernmental legal or commercial entity may be represented by its director, officer or employee in an action mentioned or covered by this chapter.) Please keep in mind this is for Nevada.
F. Scott Wilson
Small Claims Court is an *excellent* way to speed up judgment and collections for small amounts. I have personally won about forty cases, all of the ones an old employer had me pursue this way. All of these cases were business to business, with about half of them against sole proprietors.
The use of an attorney is specifically and expressly not permitted by Small Claims statutes, at least in California. This is to discourage endless litigation on small matters, and to let the judge hear the matter and decide swiftly.
As far as collecting on a Small Claims judgment goes, this can be done with some care and forethought. NOLO Press has some excellent books on Small Claims procedures, including steps you can take to make good on the judgment. I have successfully collected judgments from Small Claims matters in all but one of the above forty instances, and that was because the owner (sole proprietorship) had died between the case being heard and our receiving the judgment.
The only problem is if you are a corp., technically you must have a Lawyer represent you. Then if or when you do win, try and collect…. The system is structured for degenerates and crooks, not honest people.
Yes, I use Small Claims, matter of fact just returned from a case on a STOP PAYMENT check. Defendant showed and arrangements were made to resolve check; including filing fees and processor fees.
I have about 50/50 luck in having defendants show up and/or settle vs no show. It’s a simple process to rubber stamp the default and as I’m dealing in construction, that gives me the avenue to attach their contractors license bond.
The one major flaw is in B to B situations, there is the cap on how many actions that can be brought annually at the $5k limit so use your quota judiciously. It may be a wiser course to drop a moderate claim amount down below the $2500. limit (unlimited for B to B).
I would say usually the defendant try to settle it on the steps of the court house, or they do not show up.