After Winning in Small Claims Court
Updated: Oct 29
Congratulations, you won the case! What you do next will depend largely on what the other party does. We are going to go over the different possible things the other party will do, and your options based on those actions.
Winning a Claim as a Defendant
Being the defendant on the original claim, you can win the case in two different ways:
1. Winning the plaintiff's claim, which is the original case filed against you by the plaintiff
You do not owe the plaintiff any money on this claim
2. Winning the defendant's counterclaim, which is the claim you filed against the plaintiff in the same case
The plaintiff owes you money on the counterclaim
Winning Plaintiff's Claim as the Defendant
Winning the plaintiff's claim as the defendant means that you do not owe the plaintiff any money on the claim. However, it's possible that the plaintiff will contest the judgment. Fortunately, the plaintiff will not be able to appeal this decision, but they may choose to file a motion to correct or cancel the judgment if they believe a clerical error was made, or there is an incorrect legal basis in the decision.
If the plaintiff files this request, you will receive a copy of the request along with an "Answer" form for you to provide your response to the plaintiff's request for the court to review. If you do not agree with the defendant's request, you should be sure to fill out and return the answer within the timeframe indicated. If you do not answer, the court will make a decision without hearing your side of the story. After the court has reviewed both the request and answer, they will send out a response to the request, which may include a date and time for a hearing on the cancellation. You will have a chance to provide your argument to convince the judge that the judgment should not be canceled. If the judgment is canceled, you will have to attend a new trial for the same claim.
Winning the Defendant's Counterclaim as the Defendant
Winning the counterclaim effectively makes you the judgment creditor, and the other party the judgment debtor. What you do will depend a lot on what the judgment debtor chooses to do. Keep in mind that the court does not pay you, the court simply states that the debtor owes you money, and you are legally in the right to pursue actions to receive payment.
Typically the debtor will respond in one of these ways:
Debtor pays voluntarily
o Debtor pays you directly
o Debtor arranges to pay the court
o Debtor arranges to pay in installments
Debtor does not pay voluntarily
o Debtor tells you they will not pay
o Debtor does not pay within 30 days of the judgment
Debtor appeals the judgment (if they attended the hearing)
Debtor requests cancellation of the judgment (if they did not attend the hearing)
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.