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First Time in Small Claims Court


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#1 for_justice

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 08:31 PM

My home improvement contractor did such a substandard job that I need to hire someone else to redo all of his work. Regretfully, I paid him 1/3 up front but I refused to pay him the rest. This project will end up costing 1/3 more plus all this time and hassle of finding another contractor. On top of all that the contractor has now sued me and I have been summoned to small claims court.

On the summons it says that I cannot bring an attorney with me to court. Should I still consult a lawyer? If so what type of lawyer should I look for and how can he or she help me with this matter? What should I expect at court? What can I do to prepare?

Thank you.



#2 adjusterjack

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 05:42 AM

On the summons it says that I cannot bring an attorney with me to court.


Many small claims courts prohibit lawyers. But they also give you the option of removing the case to a higher court where you can have a lawyer.


You also might have the option of filing a counterclaim.


Post your state and county in your reply.


Should I still consult a lawyer?


Probably would be a good idea.

If so what type of lawyer should I look for


One who practices business or contract law.

how can he or she help me with this matter?


Guidance through the process.

What should I expect at court?


You can expect the contractor to present his contract and deny any wrongdoing.

What can I do to prepare?


One thing you will absolutely have to have is another contractor to go to court with you and testify that the first contractor botched the job and show how much it will cost to fix.

It would be best if that contractor has experience testifying in court.

Photos of shoddy workmanship are critical to have.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#3 for_justice

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 07:34 AM

There is a form attached to the court documents for a counterclaim.

We called some contractors but they did not want to be involved. How do you find contractors who are willing to testify in court? Are we allowed to pay them for testifying in court?

#4 pg1067

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 07:39 AM

You should subpoena the contractor you hired to finish/fix the work.

#5 adjusterjack

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 11:59 AM

There is a form attached to the court documents for a counterclaim.

We called some contractors but they did not want to be involved. How do you find contractors who are willing to testify in court? Are we allowed to pay them for testifying in court?


Try googling something like "construction defect expert witness" for your city and see what you come up with.

They do customarily charge a fee for their expert testimony.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#6 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 12:16 PM

What state is this concerning? Also, would be a good idea to consult with a local Lawyer to address your concerns regarding this matter.

#7 for_justice

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 12:41 PM

Kansas

#8 adjusterjack

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:37 PM

Kansas small claims information:

http://www.kscourts....smallclaims.htm

Kansas court website where you can search additional information:

http://www.kscourts.org/

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#9 for_justice

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 04:13 PM

I think I should update everyone about what happened. I consulted with lawyers and was advised that the amount in dispute was too small to hire an expert witness. Instead, they advised I bring estimates for how much it would cost to repair the substandard work. The lawyers also advised that the judge will likely "split the difference" and award a partial amount to the plaintiff.

I brought pictures of the substandard work, three estimates to repair the work, and an outline of my argument among other items. The judge only accepted the pictures and the contract. She would not consider the estimates because she considered them heresay. The judge did not seem to consider my argument that the work was substandard and needed to be redone, but rather based her judgement on the ambiguous contract wording. She awarded half of the amount in dispute to the contractor. I had already paid 1/3 up front, so I ended up having to pay 2/3 of the original total.

This outcome is disappointing to me but I learned that the lawyers were right about one thing: The judge simply split the amount in dispute, so I should have argued more forcefully that I already paid 1/3 up front. Also, it seems that the homeowner is at a disadvantage in this sort of case because the contractor is considered an expert and the homeowner is not. Hiring an expert witness is just too expensive and most contractors simply do not want to be involved.

A big thanks to everyone who contributed here to help me.




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