A Small Claims Quandry
August 18, 2006 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Okay - Small claims question here - maybe the MeFi legal eagles can help me out... Business A is sued by Business B is small claims court in the state of Idaho. Plaintiff, (Business B) doesn't bother to show up to the trial. Plaintiff's case is marked "dismissed with prejudice" on judgement. Business B has subsequently refiled the same case with the same court. Not appealed, but simply filed again. The court clerks are unable to clarify whether this is an oversight on their part (allowing business B to file the case again) or if it's even legal to do so. They can however, verify that this is not filed as an appeal of the original case. Clerk intends to confer with original Judge next week. Thoughts?
posted by stenseng to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Bring the papers saying it was dismissed with prejudice to the hearing. You win. They can pay $40 (or whatever the filing fee is) every time they want to refile and have the same result.

IAAL, but IANYL, and this is not legal advice.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 3:54 PM on August 18, 2006

Problem is travel. The case is filed about 500 miles from Business A. That gets pricy quickly, dealing with a nuisance suit.
posted by stenseng at 4:00 PM on August 18, 2006

Problem is travel.

Perhaps Business A can file a counterclaim, seeking reimbursement of travel expenses? Normally they're not recoverable, but small claims Judges typically have a great deal of latitude with regards to small judgments and I believe a Judge would be sympathetic to claims from a defendant who is forced to appear in a case which has previously been dismissed with prejudice.
posted by RichardP at 4:58 PM on August 18, 2006

Don't know Idaho civil procedure, but there are typically procedural rules that impose penalties for filing frivolous claims, or if the litigants fail to do basic research before filing. (no idea if this would apply to a small claims situation)
posted by Brian James at 5:16 PM on August 18, 2006

IANAL: "with prejudice" specifically means that the plaintiff does not have the right to pursue the action again. Keep at the clerks (and the judge, if necessary), or save the trouble of travel by engaging the trouble of a lawyer who will know exactly who to send what paperwork to.
posted by mendel at 5:26 PM on August 18, 2006

I don't know much about Idaho small claims, but if you're really 500 miles away, it seems like you could make a pretty good venue argument. In California, at least, I vaguely remember (but might be completely wrong) that there was some form you could fill out and send in.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 5:52 PM on August 18, 2006

Here in Ontario, Canada, a small claims court case must be either at a court in the defendant's municipality or at the closest court to the defendant's address. I'd be surprised if there weren't some sort of provision like this for defendants in your state (though perhaps not quite so straightforward) -- otherwise the small claims system could be easily abused.
posted by winston at 5:59 PM on August 18, 2006

kingjoeshome, winston: Idaho Code allows small claims to be filed in either the defendant's county or the county "where the cause of action arose":
Any action brought in a small claims department of the magistrate's division shall be brought in the magistrate's division in the county where the defendant resides or the county where the cause of action arose. A defendant may request a change of venue if an action is brought in an improper county.
Business A has the right to request the case be transferred to their home county if the county in which the case is being filed (presumably the home county of Business B) can't reasonably be interpreted as the county in which the cause of action arose.
posted by RichardP at 6:18 PM on August 18, 2006

RichardP: That doesn't satisfy A's problem: (s)he doesn't want to travel 500 miles to deal with it even once.

When the clerk talks to the judge, they'll probably tell B to get stuffed. A doesn't have to worry about anything until there's a date set and that won't happen, unless the court screwed up by dismissing with prejudice. At least that's the way I understand the situation. But IANAL.

Do let us know what happens though.
posted by jaysus chris at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2006

It's possible that B will get into serious trouble. I think it's arguable that B is in contempt of court.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:06 PM on August 18, 2006

"Dismissed with prejudice" means B cannot file the same claim against A ever again.

However, are you sure this is legally the "same claim"? I mean if the paperwork is exactly the same as the first suit, then yes B shouldn't have filed. But if the claim is similar, then it may not legally be the "same claim" even if you think it should be.
posted by falconred at 11:20 PM on August 18, 2006

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