Friday, August 28, 2009

"Small Claims Court" is Inappropriately Named - Part 5

When I filled my $500 complaint, the verdict appeared to be rather simple. I hit a 12" deep hole in the paved exit from a shopping mall, this hole being less than a foot from the street, an area 16 and one half feet wide from street to the out edge of the sidewalk. These areas are known as public owned right-of-way. I submitted 6 photos from different angles proving that people drove over this hole, the scarring showed it was hit with frequency. For $500, I could not afford to hire an attorney. I appeared in court 3 times. If attorney costs were only $150 an hour, I would have easily paid out a $1000. Few individuals are ever going to win a small claim of $500 or so, against a municipal body or any organization that has attorneys on their payrolls.

In review, I should have called Mr. Swenson as a witness, hostile or friendly. I intended to but called for his boss in error. I allowed the cities motion to dismiss his appearance. I shouldn't have as he was Mr. Swenson's Manager, he would have had to say what it was I hit and that it was on city right-of-way. I would have immediately filed an FOIA to the city (however, knowing what I know now, I believe they would have just "set" on it) but I was naive enough to believe they were obligated to give me a legal description of the property where the "hole" was located. I should have requested a change of Judge's after the first day when this Judge asked me "why my BIG INSURANCE company didn't handle this claim for me"? I should have demanded another court date when City Attorney Williams said she had not received a copy of my amended complaint the the judge indicated he saw no change in the complaint he was looking at which may or may not have been, the original rather than the amended complaint.

And if I wanted to spend another $2-4 thousand, I could have appealed although I was told that cases like mine are seldom overturned.

If you are considering going to small claims court or know someone who is, be sure your pass these blogs to them or have them talk to me. There is no one to help you in the Circuit Clerks Office and the judge is not going to be your attorney. I wasn't even told I didn't have to hire the sheriff to deliver my complaint but could have done it myself. But you can beat city hall. You just can't be as naive as I was.

But the hole got fixed, such as it is.

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