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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: Leveling the playing field in small claims court

April 7, 2008

In the near future, I will be adding a question and answer section to my column about once a month or at least every other month. If you have a legal question that you would like me to consider, feel free to forward it to my email below.

Now on to this week’s topic: small claims court. When you have a relatively low monetary dispute involving another party, small claims court may be the right place to pursue your case, especially if you have little income to spend on attorney’s fees. When faced with a dispute involving a large company or a business, the average consumer is often at a disadvantage in court because the large company will have substantially more money to spend on attorney’s fees and costs. If your dispute is for a substantial amount of money you will have no choice but to pursue the matter outside of small claims court. (Courts establish their jurisdiction over particular matters in part by the amount of money at stake.)

However, if you have a dispute that totals $5,000.00 or less, small claims court can be an inexpensive and satisfactory way to pursue the dispute. First, you will save thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and other costs. Second, the process is often much simpler and less formal than other courts. In small claims court, you file your case, and then the court sets a date for trial. There are no structuring conferences, lengthy discovery orders, or pre-trial conferences. Moreover, after a hearing, sometimes a judge will issue his or her ruling right from the bench, which is rarely the case in district or superior court.

To find out more specific requirements, procedure and filing fees for small claims matters, go online to the New Hampshire judiciary’s website, and then to the small claims section: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/district/claims.htm.

Although the jurisdiction of the Court is for claims of $5,000.00 or less, if you have a claim slightly above that amount, you may consider going to small claims court anyway. You will sacrifice any award of over $5,000.00, but will save on attorney’s fees, time, and possibly stress. Although you are permitted to hire an attorney for small claims court, most people do not. Moreover, judges in small claims courts do not expect litigants to be polished and are usually very patient during a litigant’s presentation.

If you are very nervous about presenting your case in small claims court, you may contact an attorney for a consultation to help explain the process and help you to prepare your argument. While this will cost something, it will be much less expensive than hiring an attorney to represent you through the whole proceeding. If you have a valid claim, and are able to explain it, small claims court can level the playing field and be a satisfactory means of resolving a dispute quickly and inexpensively.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay