Litigating a Claim in Small Claims Court

Many disputes I come across can be resolved in "Small Claims Court." You may be dissatisfied with the job your mechanic did. Or, someone borrowed money from you, but failed to repay it. Or, you were involved in a fender bender, but the person at fault is uninsured or refuses to take responsibility. If your problem involves less than $10,000 in controversy, you may consider taking your dispute to "Small Claims Court."

Every Precinct in a County has both a Justice of the Peace and a Constable. Some Precincts have more than one Justice of the Peace. They may be located in the same building or they may not. In Texas, Justices of the Peace are elected to four year terms. They are employed by the County and do not have to be attorneys. In fact, most are not. Justices of the Peace come from many different backgrounds. In addition to civil matters, Justices of the Peace handle truancies, Class C Misdemeanors and evictions. Here is the key to understanding Justice of the Peace or JP Courts: the same Judge presides over two distinct types of civil cases. One type is called a "small claims" case, while the other type is called a "justice court or civil case." The filing fee may be slightly less for a "small claims" case, but the biggest difference between the two is that the Texas Rules of Evidence apply to "justice court" cases, but not to "small claims" cases. This is especially important if you are representing yourself and the other party has an attorney. When litigating a "small claims" case, you will be able to get in just about any kind of evidence or documents before the Judge. Even if the other side objects, the Judge will usually overrule the objection and allow you to proceed. However, if you are litigating a "justice court" or "civil" case, you will need to be mindful of the Texas Rules of Evidence, including hearsay rules and rules governing admisibility of documents into evidence. If you are the plaintiff, when you get ready to file your Petition, be sure to tell the Clerk that you wish to file a "small claims" case.

One of the most common complains I hear concern problems with car repairs. There is no question that if a consumer spends $500 or $1,000 on car repairs, only to have the problem recur, the consumer will want his money back or the car repair shop to continue working on the problem at no charge. As in any trade or profession, there is always the possibility of a misdiagnosis. The car repair shop at first thought it was one problem, but it turned out to be another. Anyone who listens to Car Talk on NPR knows what I am talking about. But if it sounds like the consumer is getting the run-around or the repair shop is not living up to its warranty obligations, as a first step, I suggest that the consumer write a certified letter outlining his or her concerns. The letter serves an important purpose. It puts the repair shop on notice of a potential breach of warranty or DTPA claim. Such a notice is a pre-requisite to filing both a DTPA claim and to recovering attorney's fees for breach of contract. Section 17.505(a) of the Business & Commerce Code (DTPA) requires the letter to give "reasonable detail" of the consumer's specific complaint and the amount of economic damages incurred by the consumer. The letter should be written at least 60-days before suit is filed. I always advise the consumer to keep the tone professional and to outline in detail the continuing problems and attempts at resolution. I have received returned telephone calls on more than one occasion from potential referrals whose problems were resolved after they wrote a letter. One side note on the DTPA. In my experience, one of the most useful, yet overlooked, provisions of the DTPA is Business & Commerce Code Section 17.5051, which permits either party to compel mediation relatively early in the case. Where the amount in dispute is small, an early mediation often leads to settlement before the parties' harden their positions--after receiving the first statement from their lawyers.

If the initial letter falls on deaf ears, I suggest the consumer file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If the repair shop is a member of the Better Business Bureau, it will have some incentive to resolve the dispute to the consumer's satisfaction. The Better Business Bureau serves as a forum for both informal and formal dispute resolution-offering its member companies and consumers binding and non-binding arbitration. Absent binding arbitration, the BBB does not have any enforcement authority over its member companies, so it may be difficult for the consumer to obtain complete satisfaction through the BBB.

One final note. Few consumers realize that unless they pay for the repairs to their vehicle, even if they take issue with the repairs, their car can be repossessed and sold. This is because the repair shop acquires a possessory lien on the vehicle by virtue of Texas Property Code § 70.001 et seq. In order for the vehicle to be repossessed, the consumer had to have signed or been given an express warning of the possibility of repossession absent payment. But if such a notice was given, without a resolution of the repair dispute, the consumer runs the risk of losing the vehicle (unless, of course, payment has already been made).

サマンサタバサ バッグ アディダスオリジナルス グッチ 財布 セリーヌ ハンカチ エルメス財布 グッチ バッグ アナスイ 財布 ティファニー リング コーチ アウトレット コーチ バッグ シャネル 財布 ニューバランス 996 吉田カバン 財布 コンバース オールスター グッチ 財布 コーチ 財布 グッチ 財布 カルティエ 時計 レディース フェラガモ 財布 メンズ コーチ バッグ エルメス 財布 メンズ クロエ 財布 グッチ 財布 プラダ 財布 エルメス 財布 ウブロ 時計 コンバース ハイカット通販 シャネル 財布 エルメス 財布 イヴ サンローラン コスメ オロビアンコ バッグ クロエ 財布 プラダ ポーチ アディダス スニーカー コーチ アウトレット ケイトスペード バッグ グッチ バッグ オニツカタイガー スニーカー プラダ財布 クロエ 財布 フェンディ 財布 グッチ財布 フェンディ 財布 セリーヌ バッグ ルイヴィトン ショルダーバッグ マイケルコース 通販 アナスイ 財布 オメガ 時計 オロビアンコ バッグ サマンサタバサ バッグ グッチ 財布 クロエ 財布 新作 ケイトスペード バッグ プラダ バッグ 新作 ナイキ スニーカー 激安 ルイヴィトン 財布 クロエ 財布 ナイキ スニーカー MIUMIU ミュウミュウ プラダ 財布