Small Claims Court Proceedings:
The Small Claims Court settles small disputes in the everyday life of individuals. The procedures are therefore deliberately simple and fast. However, they follow very specific rules.
Explanation of the procedure, step by step.
For what type of dispute is the Small Claims Court competent?
The Small Claims Court has jurisdiction over civil disputes that are less than or equal to $ 15,000. These are small disputes in the everyday life between individuals or between an individual and a company: contractor, renovation company, travel agency, car mechanic, insurance company, telephone / Internet company, etc.
The hearing before the Judge
The Small Claims Court can be used to put an end to litigation by reconciling the parties. In practice, it is the Judge himself who conducts the conciliation attempt, asking each of the parties to present their arguments and trying to bring them to an amicable solution.
If an amicable solution is found, the Judge draws up a report to which the parties must comply.
If the conciliation attempt fails, the parties may proceed to trial, either immediately if the Judge is available or at a later date.
The conciliation attempt is not obligatory. However, it is very useful to quickly end litigation and save the inconvenience of a trial.
The Judge begins by giving the floor to the plaintiff to set out his arguments and requirements. Then, the defendant is invited to intervene to present his vision of the facts. The Judge may ask questions to either party to clarify certain points.
Written conclusions are optional. Indeed, the proceedings before the proximity judge are oral, that is to say that only what is exposed orally by the parties to the hearing can be retained by the judge.
Can I be represented or assisted in Small Claims Court?
In principle, the parties defend themselves.
However, the law allows them to be assisted or represented by:
- their spouse;
- their parents or allies in a direct line (children, parents and grandparents);
- their relatives or allies in collateral line up to 3rd degree included (cousins, uncles and aunts, etc.);
- a person attached exclusively to their personal service or business.
In the case of representation, the representative (the representative) must have a power of attorney signed by the person he represents.
What evidence to present to the Judge?
Before the Small Claims Court Judge, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. In other words, it is up to him to provide evidence of what he supports, and not his opponent to provide evidence of the opposite position. However, the defendant has the right to also provide his own evidence in order to better defend himself.
All evidence may be presented to the Judge: contracts, letters, photographs, objects, testimonies, etc. Only condition: these proofs must be lawful, that is to say that they must not have been obtained fraudulently (for example, by theft) or unfair (for example, by the registration of a person to without his knowledge).
Moreover, the proceedings before the Judge are contradictory. In other words, each party must communicate to his opponent, before the hearing, a copy of the evidence that he intends to present, even if the opponent is already aware of their existence (for example, letter written and signed by the opponent) .
What happens when a party does not show up at the hearing?
When the defendant does not appear at the hearing when he has been properly informed, the Judge has two options:
- settle the dispute anyway, having heard the only arguments of the party present. In this case, the judgment rendered is said to be “deemed contradictory”;
- postpone the judgment to a later date, if the defendant has previously submitted a valid excuse. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for the defendant or his attorney to appear at the hearing requesting a referral at a later date. The Judge remains free to decide whether the reason given (last minute impediment, other lawyer’s hearing at the same time, missing documents, etc.) is valid. If the referral is granted, the applicant is required to re-present at the new hearing date.
After the hearing:
The Judge’s Decision
At the end of the trial, the Judge can immediately render his decision or “put it in deliberate”, that is to say, make it later, after reflection. There must be a delay of about two to three months from the end of the trial. Then the decision is sent directly by mail to each of the parties.
Once the decision is rendered, the parties are required to comply. However, it is not uncommon for the sentenced party to refuse to obey spontaneously. In this case, the other party must request a bailiff to enforce the decision of the Judge, by all necessary legal means.
Can we challenge the judgment of the Small Claims Court?
The decisions of the Judge can be challenged before the Court of Appeal only in cases where they relate to an indeterminate application (request not for the payment of a sum of money).
For all other disputes, the challenge is:
an appeal for review, where there has been dishonesty on the part of the other party during the trial (fraud, detention of documents or false testimony).