Well like everything there are winners and losers, but when you lose your case in small claims court, life might just be giving you a second chance. Here’s how it works. When you file as a plaintiff or claimant in small claims court you are asking the court to decide whether you should obtain a judgment in your favor against the defendant, that is let’s say, whoever you are saying owes you money.
If the person you are suing, the defendant shows up to the small claims trial and you win, the defendant can appeal that decision to the superior court in the hopes of changing the small claims court judge’s decision.
In addition, at the new hearing you will have a new judge and you as the plaintiff, will have to attempt to prove your case all over again because the new hearing is what is called a “trial de novo,” which in plain English means “new trial.
If you are the plaintiff and the defendant shows up and the judge decides against you at the small claims trial, basically deciding that you are not owed anything by the defendant, then the whole case is over. Defendant has “won” and of course would not want an appeal. You as the loser plaintiff in this situation are completely out of luck. It’s over.
However, if a defendant does not show up at the small claims trial, and you prove your case without any opposition because nobody is there – and this is not as easy as you might thin – then the defendant does not have the right to ask for a new trial. That is the defendant who was missing in action cannot “appeal” the decision against him or her when he failed to show up in the first place.
But, the defendant could file a motion to vacate the judgment against him or her. If a judge denies a motion to vacate, a defendant could appeal that denial of the motion to vacate. Of course this assumes the defendant has some legitimate reason for asking the court to vacate a judgment. Beware! You could be sanctioned for filing frivolous motions.
Are you still with me, because here’s a twist. While only a defendant who actually shows up can appeal a small claims judgment, against him or her, if a defendant files his or her own counter claim against a plaintiff in small claims court and if the small claims judge decides the counter claim against the plaintiff, the plaintiff is now a “defendant” who can appeal the judgment.
And guess what? Since the small claims appeal is a whole new trial, both sides now get to have the judge hear both sides again. So if you’re a plaintiff, you might just be hoping the defendant files his or her own claim against you in small claims so that if you lose in small claims on your own case and you lose against the defendant’s claim, you get to have a second chance at winning your own case.
The good news is you do not have to memorize all this and if it seems worth your while, you can hire an attorney to represent you on the appeal, because unlike the trial in small claims court you can have an lawyer actually represent you in the new trial.