If acontractor did very poor work on my home, should I take him to small claims court or regular court?

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If acontractor did very poor work on my home, should I take him to small claims court or regular court?

Small claims court has a $5K max. The most I could go after in regular court would be about $16K. However, after legal fees etc. and whatever the judge would possibly award, is it worth it? Should I just go to small claims?

Asked on January 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The amount of damages (compensation you are seeking to recover in your lawsuit) determines which court is appropriate for filing your lawsuit. 

For example, if you are suing the contractor for breach of contract, your damages would be either the contract price or the cost of repairs if you hire someone else to complete the work properly.  If your contract price was more than five thousand, then in your state you would exceed the maximum you could recover in Small Claims and instead of Small Claims, you would file in a higher court such as Municipal or Superior (your state may have different names for Municipal and Superior).  This would also apply if the damages you are seeking are the cost of completion.  Again, if the cost of completion/correction of the work exceeds five thousand, you would file your lawsuit in a higher court instead of Small Claims.

You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages.  For example, if you hire another contractor to complete the work, that contractor's charges will need to be comparable to other contractors in the area.  If you were to select the most expensive contractor you could find to complete the work, your damages would be reduced accordingly.


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