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The Small Claims Procedure

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Introduction

The Small Claims Procedure The small claims procedure is regulated by RSA 503 in 1973. It is a simple, speedy, and informal method by which an individual appears before a judge of the district or municipal court, presents his or her claim, and explains why another person or business owes money to him or her. Small Claims Court can award up to $5000 in damages (larger claims can be heard, but the maximum that can be awarded is $5000). Although not required in Small Claims Court, any persons or businesses involved in the proceedings may be represented by a lawyer if they wish. Another aspect of a small claims proceeding is that a judge may ask to hear any evidence deemed relevant and proper, since the technical rules of evidence do not apply in a small claims proceeding. If the small claim exceeds $1500, the person or business being sued has a right to a jury trial. ...read more.

Middle

Especially for those who cannot actually afford to hire their own lawyer. Either party may have a lawyer to represent him or her, but this is discouraged by the fact that the winning party cannot claim back the cost of using a lawyer form the other party, but will have to pay his own legal expenses. Instead of having a lawyer, the claimant or the defendant may have a 'lay representative', that is, a non-legally qualified person, with him or her at the hearing to help to put the case. The system is meant to be quick, but there can still be delays. Although the intention is that the case should only go to court once, there may be several hearings because one of the parties is not ready; for example, they have not brought all their evidence to court. Since the court only sits in working day, this can cause problems as the claimant and defendant may have to take their time off work. ...read more.

Conclusion

order 1992 made under s. 11 of the Court and Legal Services Act 1990, a party can choose to be represented by a lay person, though the party must also attend. There is little right of appeal: the judge's decision can be set aside but only on the ground that there has been a serious irregularity affecting the proceedings or the court made a mistake of law. As the court records of arbitrations are concise and do not usually state the reason for the award, the proceedings rarely give raise to an appeal. The procedure is quick, simpler and cheaper than the full county court process, which is helpful to both litigants and the over worked court system. It gives individuals and small businesses a useful lever against creditors or for consumer complaints. Without it, threats to sue over small amounts would b ignored on the basis that going to court would cost more than the value of the debt or compensation claimed. Public confidence is also increased, by proving that the legal system is not only accessible to the rich and powerful. ...read more.

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