Pros and Cons of Taking Your Equine Dispute to Small Claims Court

Beyond the dollar amount at stake, there are other important factors in determining whether an equine legal matter is appropriate for small claims court.

Advantages of Small Claims

  • No attorney is necessary, and while you can have an attorney assist you in preparing your case (which Equine Legal Solutions recommends), you must speak on your own behalf in court. Considering that in regular civil cases, you can expect to spend $10,000 or more in attorneys' fees alone, this can be a benefit.
  • Your claim will likely be heard much more quickly than in regular civil court, and you will receive a decision fairly quickly after the hearing. In situations such as boarding disputes where you will have ongoing costs until the matter is resolved, this is a distinct advantage.
  • Your court costs will generally be $100 or less, compared to $500-1,000 per filing for regular civil court. You can typically ask for those costs as part of your claim. Note that in regular civil court, court costs are rarely awarded in routine civil litigation.
  • Despite the fact that you can't have an attorney speak for you in court, if you have an attorney assist you with your case, you can claim attorneys' fees as part of your small claims court claim and have a good chance of being awarded such fees if you win your case. This is not true in regular civil court, where attorneys' fees are rarely awarded in routine civil matters.

Disadvantages of Small Claims

  • Your claim is limited to the amount set by your state, typically under $10,000, plus court costs and attorneys' fees.
  • You can only seek money damages.
  • Small claims court is unpredictable. Some of our clients have gone to small claims with seemingly rock-solid cases and lost. Others have gone with shaky cases and won.
  • The quality of the jurisprudence (i.e., qualifications and experience of small claims judges) is not always very high. See our note about pro tem judges below. You cannot expect judiciary worthy of US Supreme Court (or even Law & Order, for that matter).
  • You have to present your own case to the judge and can't have an attorney speak for you.  Not having an attorney to speak on your behalf can be a detriment if you are not a skilled public speaker or will find it difficult to maintain your composure.
  • It can be hard to collect a judgment, as the remedies available for collection in small claims are more limited than those in regular civil court.  In addition, unless you hire an attorney to represent you, it may be difficult for you to avail yourself of the full range of collection options that are offered by small claims.
For assistance in determining whether your equine legal matter is appropriate for small claims, contact ELS to schedule a consultation.

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