To commence a small claims action, the plaintiff must go to the clerk’s office, complete the intake sheet, and pay a small fee. The plaintiff has a choice between day or night small claims court. The clerk will give the plaintiff the court date, prepare a summons and complaint, and will attempt to deliver the documents on the defendant. If the court is unable to deliver the papers on the defendant, the clerk will notify you and you will be responsible to have the papers served on the defendant.
If you are a defendant that has received a summons and complaint, you have the right to submit a counterclaim demanding money from the plaintiff. To submit a counterclaim the defendant should appear at the clerk’s office and complete the required intake sheet.
The plaintiff and defendant must appear on the date and time set forth on the summons. Be prepared to have witnesses and documents to support your argument. The court will generally accept a paid receipt or two itemized estimates to prove damages. If you or your witness does not speak English, the court will provide an interpreter.
In court, the judge first will direct a mediation before trial. The plaintiff, defendant and an independent third party (usually a trained arbitrator) will review the facts in an attempt to settle the matter and avoid going to trial. If the plaintiff and defendant are unable to settle the matter, they must then decide to go with either arbitration before the arbitrator or go to trial before the judge. In an arbitration, a decision by an arbitrator is binding and may not be appealed. In a trial, the losing party may appeal a judge’s decision. Both the plaintiff and defendant must consent to an arbitration; if not, the case goes to trial to be decided by the judge. The plaintiff or the defendant may also request a postponement of the trial that – for good reason – may be granted by the court.
If the plaintiff does not appear in court on the date and time set forth on the summons, the judge will dismiss the action. If the defendant does not appear in court, the plaintiff must prove his or her damages at an inquest before the judge.
More information concerning the small claims procedure may be found at www.nycourts.gov/courts/10jd/nassau/smallclaims.shtml or at the Nassau County District Court Clerk’s Office.
The information provided by the Nassau County Bar Association is not meant to serve as specific legal advice for a particular situation or as a substitute for consultation with a lawyer. If you require the services of a lawyer, you may call the Nassau County Lawyer Referral Service at (516) 747-4832, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to nassaubar.lawmarketingny.com
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