After Winning in Small Claims Court
Updated: Jan 17
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 their actions.
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Winning a Claim as a Plaintiff
Being the plaintiff in the original case, you could win in two different ways:
Winning the plaintiff's claim, which is the case you originally filed against the defendant.
The defendant now owes you the amount as awarded by the judge.
Winning the defendant's counterclaim, which is the claim that the defendant filed against you as part of the same case.
You do not owe the defendant anything on the counterclaim.
Winning Plaintiff's Claim as Plaintiff
Winning the claim effectively makes you the judgment creditor (meaning you are owed money), and the other party the judgment debtor (the person who must pay the money). 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 that 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)
Winning Defendant's Counterclaim as the Plaintiff
Winning the counterclaim means you do not owe the defendant any money on the counterclaim. However, it's possible that the defendant will contest the judgment. Fortunately, the defendant 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 defendant files this request, you will receive a copy of the request along with an "Answer" form for you to provide your response to the defendant'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.
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.