I have filed a small claims case and it has been sent to mediation. I have a signed promissory note agreement by the defendant that states that she owes the money. What is mediation going to do for me?
2 Answers from Attorneys
I am an Attorney and a Mediator. While generally alternative dispute resolution gives parties a way to try to solve the issues, sometimes it has no place. Small Claims Courts are informally run mostly and some Judges are not Attorneys. They are usually way overloaded with work.
I suspect you if you call the clerk to get a time/date for a hearng, and you set the matter for a hearing on that time by giving notice by letter to defendant (give more than 3-10 days notice to the defendant) to show up at the hearing. At the hearing, once your case is called up, ask the Judge to set aside the Order of Mediation. Alternatively, you can file a written objection to mediation explaining why since defendant refuses to pay and you refuse to settle for less than what is owed, you object to a mediation and mail that to the Court. If you need help with this part gratis (no charge) just to help you out, email me.
However, please be aware that you likely can collect Attorneys fees as part of your lawsuit from defendant in most debt collections and contract dispute cases. If the amount is over $1000, you may be better off dismissing and filing in a higher level Court. County Court at Law is where you go and automatically start all over if defendant files an appeal of the small claims court case. You would then start all over again from the begining. That is why Lawyers dont use those courts for larger amounts (they go up to $10,000 maximum). If he or she is in really bad shape, they may just do nothing and not show up, then file for bankruptcy likely wiping out your debt and any Court Judgment.
Alternatively, if the person you are suing has a fairly clean record, a job and assets that can be seized, (or you don't know), you really should talk to an Attorney. We offer no charge 30 minute consultations to reveiw the documents and start investigating defendant.
Since I have to schedule those mostly evenings and weekends, I can probably even meet you at a Starbucks or cafe somewhere inside of Beltway 8. Some of these stronger cases we take either earning our fees from defendant or a a percentage of the Court award/settlement. Don't forget to include all the court fees, your expenses, and interest charges up to Trial in the case and ask the Judge to include all interest and all collections costs in any Judgment.
Keep in mind, what you get when you "win" is just a piece of paper called a Judgment from the Court. Judgments are sometime not worth the paper they are printed on.... If it is a larger debt amount (more than perhaps $2000), please talk to a Lawyer!
If I can help, just email me with your question! Best of luck!
I agree with the other attorney's answer.
I would hire a lawyer to represent you - even in a small claims case.
The judges use mediation to resolve cases so that they are able to handle their huge caseloads.
As an attorney that now only has a mediation practice in family law, I encourage people to attend mediation instead of going before a judge whenever possible.
On the face of the lawsuit, you have a good case because you have a signed promissory note. However, as the other attorney pointed out, you still have to collect the money owed. If the woman has no money, then you could still "win" but you won't get your money - you get a piece of paper called a "judgment" that you have to then try to turn into an asset. I've seen lots of people have a judgment but never be able to collect on the judgment. For example, I personally have a judgment against a man but I've never been able to collect on it & I'm an attorney!
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