Sue Me! I’ll Sue You!
Small Claims Court is an incredible resource for all businesses. Not just the little guy.
By: Mike Lipshultz
Mike@biznetonline.com

Here in California, Small Claims cases can be brought for as much as $5,000.00. Believe it or not, every Small Claims Court has it’s regulars. Both large and small businesses know what a great resource this Court is for obtaining a quick and cost effective judgment against someone. The regulars have taken the time to educate themselves on the ins and outs of Small Claims Courts in California. Yes, it is true that the law applies the same in all Courts; however, there are some special exceptions in the law just for Small Claims, and that brings us to the reason for this article.

Unfortunately it is not uncommon for a big business with a big attorney to try to "bully" the smaller guy into submission. Sometimes, when a small business takes on the guy with the attorney by bringing a Small Claims Action, the big guy gets nasty. The first thing the big guy’s big-bad-attorney does is send you a letter "advising you" that unless you dismiss your action immediately, the big guy’s big-bad-attorney is going to sue you for "Malicious Prosecution" or for "Bringing a frivolous action". The letter does not state why they feel they do not owe you any money. Just that "you would be strongly advised to dismiss your case" along with the usual talk of suing you for vast amounts of money. The strategy behind this action is to scare the *!@* out of you. To scare you so badly that you run away and hide (after dismissing your action). After all, it’s O.K. to take a chance on possibly not winning in Court, but to run the risk of being sued in Municipal, or Superior Court (the time, the money, the legal fee’s) Big Scary Stuff.

When you were a kid, your mom and dad scared you with the Bogeyman. Let me tell you, in California, in Small Claims Court, there is no Bogeyman, and there is no such thing as "Malicious Prosecution". Yes, if you bring a totally baseless, B. S. lawsuit in Municipal or Superior Court and lose the case, you can be sued for having done so. But in Small Claims, there is no such thing. Now it is hoped that everyone is a responsible adult and truly believes in the right of their case. If I wanted to, I could sue anyone for anything in Small Claims Court. The worst that can happen to me is I would lose the case. But I cannot be sued for having done so. Anyone suing me for suing them would lose. The real kicker is, if I sue them in Small Claims and lose the case, and they sue me in Municipal or Superior Court, I could get their case dismissed, and then I could legally sue them for suing me… and I would stand an excellent chance of winning.

When I say anything, I mean anything. I don’t like the way you look so I’m going to sue you for $5,000.00 in Small Claims Court. No, I’m not going to win the case, but you can’t do anything to me for bringing a bad case to Small Claims Court. The reason for this is that Small Claims Court is a Court, not for attorneys, but for the average guy ("The Peoples Court"). The Court realizes that average people do not know the law. To keep the safety and comfort of Small Claims alive the Court recognizes that bad cases will be filed by people with good intentions, just no legal knowledge.

So, don’t let the big guy’s Big-Bad-Attorney scare you. Please, be responsible and make sure your case has some basis in the law. Knowingly bringing bad cases to Court hurts us all. It will also hurt you if you should ever show up in front of that same judge. He may remember you and your lack of character.

If you would like to see the entire Court case documenting this in California, click here.

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Last modified: November 08, 2002