After Losing in Small Claims Court
Updated: Oct 29
If you've received a judgment indicating that you've lost a case, your options to proceed depend on whether or not you agree with the judgment.
Losing a Claim as a Defendant
Being the defendant on the original claim, you can lose the case in two different ways:
Losing the plaintiff's claim, which is the original case filed against you by the plaintiff
You have been ordered to pay the plaintiff on this claim
Losing the defendant's counterclaim, which is the claim you filed against the plaintiff in the same case
This means the plaintiff does not owe you any money on the counterclaim
Losing Plaintiff's Claim as Defendant
Losing the plaintiff's claim will leave you with different options depending on whether you've attended the hearing.
If you attended the hearing and lost the case the Plaintiff had against, you can appeal the judge's decision. An appeal means the whole case is heard again as a new trial. Both parties may be represented by a lawyer in an appeal.
If you win the appeal, the judge may determine you don't owe the Plaintiff any money or that you owe less.
If you lose the appeal, you could pay additional costs for the other party's lawyer and/or their lost earnings and expenses related to the trial. If the judge decides that you appealed to delay or harass the other party, the judge may order you to pay even more for the other party's lawyer and lost earnings/expenses.
If you did not attend the hearing and lost the claim, that means you've received a default judgment. You can file a motion to “vacate” (cancel) the judgment. This will usually be granted if you have a good reason for missing the original hearing. If the judge vacates the judgment, you will have a new trial. The new trial can be on the day of the vacation hearing or on a future date, so we suggest bringing your evidence every time you go to court, just to be prepared.
Losing Defendant's Counterclaim as Defendant
In a counterclaim, you are effectively the "Plaintiff" of the claim. Unfortunately, losing the counterclaim leaves you with not many options. You will not be able to appeal the decision of the court. If you believe a clerical error was made, or that there is an incorrect legal basis in the decision, you can file a motion to correct or cancel the judgment. If the judgment is canceled, you will receive a new trial.
NEED HELP WITH YOUR JUSTICE JOURNEY?
The quest for justice is never easy, particularly when it comes to getting your money back. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become easier. Quest for Justice’s first app, JusticeDirect, is the only app of its kind designed to support people without lawyers resolve their dispute and get their money back, both in and out of court. The first step to getting money back is through a letter demanding payment from the other party JusticeDirect offers customizable demand letters for free. If the letter demanding payment does not work, then the next step is taking them to court. JusticeDirect* will guide users every step of the way through the small claims court process by helping them:
Understand the legal process;
Evaluate the pros and cons that come with taking someone to court;
Generate small claims court forms; and,
Avoid common mistakes when filing your forms and serving notice on the other side.
*Currently, JusticeDirect can only help litigants sue in California’s small claims court.