Small Claims Court helps individuals resolve legal issues

| January 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

Legal Assistance Office
News Release

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Small Claims Court provides a simple, inexpensive way to enforce your rights.

In this informal court, the parties represent themselves, usually without an attorney accompanying them. However, attorneys, including legal assistance attorneys, can advise you before and after the hearing.

The hearing before the judge or magistrate usually happens quickly and the decision is made immediately or in a few days. The amount you can sue for is often limited. In Hawaii, the amount is limited to $3,500.

Court costs are usually low, and the court procedures are simple and relatively informal. Small Claims Courts commonly hear landlord-tenant, debtor-creditor, contractual, motor vehicle or property damage disputes.

To resolve a dispute using a Small Claims Court, contact the appropriate clerk of the court. Clerks generally will provide information on the court process and the forms you will need to file a claim and take it through to trial.

Anyone, including non-citizens of the U.S., can sue or be sued. The court will appoint a guardian to act on the person’s behalf if a party is under 18 years old and/or declared incompetent. Businesses and non-profit organizations also can sue or be sued in Small Claims Court. Before you file your case, check with the clerk to be sure.

People should use Small Claims Court when negotiations have failed and someone who owes you money will not pay it; including,

  • A landlord wrongfully refuses to return a security deposit.
  • An employer will not pay the money owed.
  • You bought an appliance, which does not work, and the store where you bought it refuses to return your money.
  • An automobile repair shop did not properly repair your car and you already paid the shop.
  • Your car was damaged in a traffic accident, which was not your fault, and the damage is not covered by insurance.

In many states, Small Claims Courts only hear cases for money damages up to a small amount. Cases involving libel, slander, malicious prosecution and abuse of process generally cannot be filed in small claims court. Usually, Small Claims Courts cannot force a person to take a specific action – they can’t force the repair shop to make the repairs. Instead, the court can award money damages.

For more information, visit the Hawaii State Judiciary Small Claims Court at www.courts.state.hi.us/self-help/small_claims/small_claims.html.

Legal Assistance
Visit the Legal Assistance Office, Building 2037, on Humphreys and Aleshire drives, Schofield Barracks; call 655-8607; or search on Facebook, keywords “U.S. Army Legal Assistance-Hawaii.”

Legal Assistance can’t represent you in Small Claims Court, but will make helpful suggestions about how to prepare a case.

Appointments are from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 1-3 p.m., Thursday.

 

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Category: News, Staff Judge Advocate (SJA)

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