for_justice

First Time in Small Claims Court

9 posts in this topic

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now