Maine Small Claims Court can be a terrific way to recover money owed to you. It is, however, not appropriate for every delinquent customer. If you want to use the Court successfully, take these things into consideration:
Assets: Does the party you are suing have assets to pay the judgment? The Court does not collect money for you. If your claim is successful, the Court awards a judgment in your favor, which is legal confirmation that the money is owed to you. It also gives you the right to lien assets such as a home, bank account or wages. Certain assets, such as pension and disability payments cannot be attached. Do your homework before filing suit.
Party: Are you suing the right party? If you customer is a business, are you suing the business or the principals? Without a personal guarantee, you may not prevail suing a business owner. Once again, are there assets in the name of the business? Check the Maine Secretary of State business listings to confirm exact name of business and if, in fact, it is an active business at all.
Time: You will be required to go to Court at least one time. You could spend 30 minutes or an entire day, depending on how many cases are on the docket that day. If your Defendant does not pay within 30 days, you will have to bring them back to Court for a disclosure hearing, possibly another day in Court. How many days can you spare from the office? Is your time best spent in Court or outsourcing and focusing on your business?
Money: It costs $55 to file a Maine Small Claims Court case. It may very well be that just filing the case will convince the defendant that you mean business and get them to pay. However, there are other costs you need to consider. You must “serve” your defendant using a sheriff. If the defendant lives in a remote area, or if they evade service and it takes multiple trips to their home, you could wind up with some hefty service costs. And, you may need the sheriff once or even twice more. The longer the case goes on, the fees will rack up. Fees can be added to the judgment and recovered, but be prepared for temporary out of pocket expenses.
Reason: Are you filing the case out of anger, simply to irk the defendant? Are you using Maine Small Claims Court to avoid attorney or collection agency fees? Your only reason should be that you have a good case and a good potential for being able to win a judgment and recover your money.
So, use the Maine Small Claims Court system when it makes sense. Be smart and consider it one of the ways to recover delinquent customer accounts.