There are different courts that work under the judiciary of the American government, with the Supreme Court as the highest ruling authority. Where the supreme court handles highly sensitive cases, there are some that are solved within civil courts and criminal courts.
For even smaller claims that are not criminal; in the sense that are not related to first degree crimes like murder, rape or assault and battery, those are handled in a small claims court.
Let’s get into more detail.
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Small Claims Courts
Cases with low dollar value and the ones that are less sensitive- where either party has suffered loss but not a major one, is settled in a small claims court. Usually disputes that involve money, or overdue debt are solved in a small claims court, and since the process is simplified (it is obvious that the other party has failed to pay the debt on time), the fees are also very low.
The maximum amount that the court can award is $2,500 in Kentucky and $25,000 in Tennessee. Most small claims fall between $3,000 and $15,000.
Small Claims Court Cases Examples
Typically, the most common examples of small claims court cases come from monetary disputes. Small claims courts can hear most types of civil court cases, such as:
- Breach of contract disputes
- Personal injury claims (such as dog bites)
- Collection on debts or loan repayments
- Professional negligence claims (like bad car repairs)
- Claims regarding the return of a renter’s security deposit or personal property
- Issues with contractors or home remodels
- Property damage claims
- Claims involving eviction notices or unlawful eviction
- False arrest claims
- Libel or slander cases
- Counterclaims to a lawsuit
Most small claims courts do not hear:
- Family law cases (divorce, child support issues, guardianships)
- Name changes
- Probate cases
- Personal injury cases with serious injuries or damages
Civil Court Cases
Civil laws deal with disputes and conflicts between people and organizations, where the plaintiff has suffered some sort of loss at the hands of the defendant. The private relations between members of the community are resolved under the civil law.
Cases like breach of contract, breach of warranty, defamation, class action lawsuits, and torts are some of the most common examples of civil court cases.
Civil Case Example
One example of civil law cases was Liebeck v McDonald’s in 1995, when 79 year old Stella Liebeck purchased a hot coffee from Mcdonald’s while in the car with her grandson. She opened the lid to mix the creamery when the coffee spilt on her, leaving deep tissue burns that led to surgeries and severe pains.
She filed a civil lawsuit against McDonald’s under the torts of strict liability and negligence. The case became controversial because she was suing the restaurant over their coffee being too hot. The verdict was given that the plaintiff had suffered severe pain, surgeries, loss of income and pleasure and the defendant’s product- coffee- was too hot to drink. This constituted breach of implied warranty that the product was safe to use.
One of the most famous civil cases is of the sexual harassment civil class action lawsuit of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. in 1997. It was filed in 1988 on behalf of Lois Jenson and other female workers at the EVTAC mine in Eveleth, Minnesota on the state’s northern Mesabi Range, which is part of the Iron Range. She claimed that she and other female employees were constant victims of sexual harassment, abuse, threats, stalking and intimidation.
The case moved forward slowly; with Jensen leaving the mine and was diagnosed with PTSD shortly after. The case moved forward quickly then when it moved to trial. The trial’s decision was appealed and reversed, and another trial was set. In 1998, just before the case moved on to trial, fifteen women settled with Eveleth Mines for a total of $3.5 million. This case was the first class action lawsuit against women sexual harassment in workplaces, and created new set of boundaries against discrimination in the corporate sector.
Legal Requirements for Small Claims Court
No one can randomly get up and decide one day that they’re slapping a small claim lawsuit against a defendant. There are some legal requirements that define the process and how the case should move forward.
Firstly, the plaintiff must send a demand letter to the defendant, and should do so by a certified channel like email. He is then required to wait for 10 business days before he files the case. The plaintiff shall provide all sorts of proof to the court about the mail and informing the defendant, and pay a small claims court filing fee.
The defendant must be served by a third party and should be served 10 dates prior to the court hearing date. If that isn’t done and the hearing date is before the 10 days are complete, the plaintiff must file a motion to continue and reschedule the trial date.
A small claims court handles petty issues especially the ones related to money and financial aspects, especially disputes where one party fails to pay the other’s money in due time. These are different and less sensitive than the cases fought in civil courts, like defamation and theft.