What happens if I am sued in small claims court and lose?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If you lose in small claims court and as a result the other party has a small claims court judgment against you, you do have the right to appeal the decision. Your notice of appeal must be in writing and must be filed within a certain time period, generally thirty days. Since you did not have the right to a jury in small claims court, your appeal is considered “de novo.” You will then be able to try the case all over again before a higher court, such as a Court of Common Pleas or Superior Court where you can have a jury trial if you want one.

Appeals Prerequisities to Appeal a Small Claims Court Judgment

In some jurisdictions before the case can go to trial in the higher court, however, it must first go through the arbitration process. At an informal hearing, a panel of arbitrators, usually lawyers, will hear the evidence and come to a resolution of the issues. In these jurisdictions, you can only appeal to a higher court if you lose before the arbitrators.

Time Limit for Appeals

If you have not appealed within the appropriate time period, the judgment will become final. You then have the option of settling the matter by satisfying or paying the judgment. If you do, the plaintiff should file a satisfaction of judgment notice with the court; this will effectively end the case.

Consequences of a Small Claims Court Judgment Against You

If you do not satisfy the judgment, the plaintiff can then try to execute it by filing a written notice of his intent with the court. Once this is done, the court will issue a writ of execution instructing a court official such as a Sheriff to seize property belonging to you and sell it to satisfy the judgment. A lien can also be placed against any real estate. The proceeds of any sale of real estate can be used to satisfy any outstanding judgments.

Having a judgment against you is a serious matter. It can affect your credit and your lifestyle. If a judgment has been issued against you, go to a lawyer and talk the matter over.  S/he can advise you on any options you may have to deal with it.

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