WHAT IS A SMALL CLAIM TRIAL?
In Iowa, a party may bring a lawsuit in Small Claims Court that allows a much more informal and quicker resolution of the claim. The monetary limit that the party can ask for in damages, for whatever kind of case it may be, is $5,000.00. The "trial" is set fairly quickly after the defendant files an answer to the petition. The trial is heard before a judge only, without a jury. The system also creates a pre-trial "mediation" option on the date of trial where a neutral non-attorney third party listens to both sides and offers a solution or facilitates discussions to come to a resolution before going before the judge. Either party can end the mediation at any time and proceed to the trial before a judge.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A SMALL CLAIM TRIAL?
In the trial, witnesses and evidence are presented as in a regular district court case, but there is more leeway in terms of what questions and what evidence is allowed into the record. Hearsay, for instance, may be allowed in some instances depending on the circumstances of the case and is left to the discretion of the judge. Exhibits may be offered and testimony is taken of the parties and/or witnesses. The judge will then make a decision once the parties are done presenting their case, or may wait to make a decision after written arguments are submitted. It is a relatively quick and easy way to resolve a claim for which damages are under $5,000.00. We can help a variety of clients in this setting to achieve the outcome they are pursuing.
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