I have written extensively about small claims court in general, but since each state is different, I thought I would give some specific information regarding the Maine Small Claims process.
The Small Claims Court was designed to give businesses a way to bring their grievances to court without having to hire an attorney. You are not precluded from having an attorney if you wish, but you are not required to have one either.
For Maine Small Claims Court, if you are even considering filing a small claims suit, this pamphlet is required reading. It sets out the process and associated fees.
Here are some things to remember:
1. The total amount of your claim cannot be more than $6,000 and be no more than 6 year old.
2. The filing fee is currently 55.00
3. It is critical that you “serve”, that is let the other party know they are being sued. If you do not have a large volume of cases, you can ask the clerk to arrange service for you, but you will have to pay for it. The cost of service will depend on where your defendant lives, how many times the sheriff attempts service, and other factors.
4. Shortly after filing your claim you will receive notice of a hearing before the Court. You are required to attend the hearing. While you are not expected to have a great deal of legal knowledge, you will be expected to make your case. You must bring documentation to back up any claims.
5. If you, the plaintiff, does not attend, the case will be dismissed, and you will have to start the process all over again.
6. If the defendant does not show, you will likely be awarded a judgment by default.
7. If you cannot attend the hearing, contact the court and ask that the hearing be continued to another date.
7. If both parties show, you will both be asked to talk beforehand, with a mediator if you choose, to see if you can come to an agreement. If you do, you will come back and let the judge know. If you cannot, you both can make your case, and the judge will render a decision.
7. If you are awarded a judgment, he court does not collect the money. You must do that yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
8. The party losing the case (you or defendant) has 30 days to appeal the judgment. It also costs $300.00 to appeal.
9. If you are awarded a judgment and the defendant does not pay, you can bring them back to court for a “disclosure hearing”, which means you bring them to court, and they must, under oath, disclose assets such as where they work or where they work. Your judgment allows you then to attach those assets to be paid. You will have to once again pay for a sheriff to serve the other party with the notice of the hearing. If the defendant does not appear, you can ask the court to issue an order of civil arrest, which the sheriff can serve on them to bring them to court, and again, more sheriff’s fees.
10. If you do get paid on the judgment, contact the clerk so they may update the court record.
It may have occurred to you while reading that there is considerable time and expense in filing a claim in Maine Small Claims Court. Therefore, you must make sure you are filing a case that makes sense.
Tomorrow we will take a close look on which types of cases you should and should not bring.