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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
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    4

    Default Case Moved from Small Claims Court to Civil Court by the Defendant

    My question involves court procedures for the state of: AZ

    I was injured with what I believe was a defective product. The injury took 2 months to heal and it was super painful in the meantime. Initially I filed a claim with the store's general liability insurance. When I say store, I mean a big box store - it's a huge corporation. I was looking for about $700 to cover my medical bills and missed time off work, although to be honest I would have probably settled for whatever amount the adjuster offered because I wasn't really keen on going to court.

    The store's insurance did an investigation, collected my statement, etc and then denied the claim. They told me to go after the supplier which is a company in China. I contacted the supplier's insurance company (which was difficult because they are not US based) and they denied my claim because they said it's not their product. I went back to the store looking for more info on how they determined the supplier was correct. The store basically told me to get lost. They said they wouldn't help me build my case against the supplier and that any information they have on the supplier is confidential information and none of my business.

    So... I went ahead and filed a small claims case. I thought maybe they would be open to a settlement once they saw that I wasn't just going to quietly fade away, but if not I could certainly go in front of a small claims judge and make my case. I know there are no attorneys in small claims so I figured it would be an even playing field. The response came from a big law firm. Apparently, AZ has a nice little law where any party in small claims can request to be moved to big boys court. The law firm requested change of venue and trial by jury. Gulp.

    It's clear that I'm outnumbered and outlawyered but I still would like to proceed with getting my day in court. Because this is a $700 case I obviously wouldn't hire an attorney, so I have to represent myself. My question is in regards to what happens if I lose. Do I get stuck paying their attorney's fees and court costs? I don't think that would be right since they are the ones who wanted to get their attorney involved and change to civil court but I would like to understand my worst case scenario.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    8,238

    Default Re: My Small Claims Case Was Moved to Civil Court by the Defendant

    The general rule in American litigation is that each party pays his own costs, with a few exceptions of some court related costs (though not including attorneys fees). Exactly what costs you might have to pay will depend in part on what court hears the case. Was the case removed from the small claims division of Justice Court to the regular civil division of Justice Court, or was it instead moved to Superior Court?

    If your claim was determined to be frivolous then the defendant might move for sanctions to include its attorneys fees.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
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    4

    Default Re: My Small Claims Case Was Moved to Civil Court by the Defendant

    Yes, it was moved from small claims division of Justice Court to regular civil division of Justice Court.

    I would prefer to sue the manufacturer or supplier instead of the store, but I have no way to find out who those companies are. I don't seem to have an option other than to pursue the case against the store. Does the fact that the store won't help me figure out the correct supplier to sue help me in court?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    18,340

    Default Re: My Small Claims Case Was Moved to Civil Court by the Defendant

    Everybody is entitled to a lawyer if they want one and in the American legal system each party has to pay for his own attorney.

    Except for one thing. AZ has another nice little rule called Offer of Judgment. It's Rule 68 of the AZ Rules of Civil Procedure:

    https://govt.westlaw.com/azrules/Doc...a=(sc.Default)

    Long story short: If Defendant offers you $100 and you don't take it and then the jury says you get Zero, that's when you end up paying the Defendant's attorney fees.
    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    Was the case removed from the small claims division of Justice Court to the regular civil division of Justice Court, or was it instead moved to Superior Court?
    Probably wouldn't make too much of a difference as the Justice Court and the Superior Court share jurisdiction for cases up to $10,000. Above the small claims limit, ALL of the AZ Rules of Civil Procedure must be complied with by both parties. This could be quite overwhelming and dangerous to a Plaintiff who thought he had a slam dunk small claims case.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: My Small Claims Case Was Moved to Civil Court by the Defendant

    It's a simple case as I don't have expert witnesses and fancy things to present like that, but I can meet all of the required elements. The case itself has merit but how in the world can an average citizen such as myself face off in court against a team of lawyers? It's clear based on the big packet of legal paperwork they mailed me, that they expect me to drop the case. And maybe I should. They've also filed a motion that the case be dismissed with prejudice. I have no doubt that more motions are coming. However I can't help but think that it's wrong for them to bully me into dropping the case. I am fine with losing if I have a weak case but at the rate this is going I will have to call it off before I see the inside of a courtroom.

    Offer of Judgement would not come into play as they haven't offered me anything. Yet. Although now I am thinking that they are going to contact me and offer $1 to settle because then I am risking having to pay their legal fees if I decline the offer and continue pursuing the case. All the risk is on me personally to proceed. They are a huge publicly traded company. They have zero risk whether they win or lose. So in the meantime they play with me like a cat plays with a mouse before killing it.

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
    View Post

    Above the small claims limit, ALL of the AZ Rules of Civil Procedure must be complied with by both parties. This could be quite overwhelming and dangerous to a Plaintiff who thought he had a slam dunk small claims case.
    I am curious what you mean by "dangerous"? It seems like the worst thing that could happen is that I lose and make a fool of myself in the process. I would recover nothing and be out of pocket what I paid for my medical expenses plus what I spent on court costs thus far. What else could happen? There isn't a counterclaim and as long as I keep in mind the "offer of judgment" I wouldn't be liable for their attorney fees. What else am I missing?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    18,340

    Default Re: My Small Claims Case Was Moved to Civil Court by the Defendant

    Quote Quoting Sunny_AZ
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    It's a simple case as I don't have expert witnesses and fancy things to present like that, but I can meet all of the required elements. The case itself has merit
    No offense, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen that only to see that the plaintiff was wrong when provided with an explanation. Perhaps you can provide an explanation of what the product was and how you were injured.

    Quote Quoting Sunny_AZ
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    how in the world can an average citizen such as myself face off in court against a team of lawyers?
    You can't. The little guy going against a big business has little chances of success unless he is willing and able to play in the big boys' ballpark with the big boys' rules.

    I've handled major lawsuits as a claim rep with the backing of my company's attorney so I know a lot more about civil procedure than the average layman and I have also been successful in the small claims arena against individuals and small businesses for modest amounts. But the one time I sued in Justice Court for more than the small claims limit I got slammed.

    Quote Quoting Sunny_AZ
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    I can't help but think that it's wrong for them to bully me into dropping the case.
    Sure, it's wrong. I've lived in AZ for 46 years and learned a long time ago that AZ is more pro-business than pro-people. As long as those Civil Procedures are written that way, the little guy is likely to get the short end of the stick.

    Quote Quoting Sunny_AZ
    View Post
    Offer of Judgement would not come into play as they haven't offered me anything.
    That's the dangerous part. They could make the offer at any time. That's what happened to me and I ended up settling because I didn't want to take the chance of ending up with a lawyer's bill of several thousand dollars. They get $300 per hour and they bill for everything.

    I can't tell you what to do. That's up to you.

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