How to fight a small claims lawsuit

Written by melissa smith
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How to fight a small claims lawsuit
Come out a winner in small claims court. (gavel image by Cora Reed from

Take your court summons seriously. Try to settle matters by talking with the person suing you before going to small claims court. If that does not work, compile pertinent data to arm yourself for success in court. If a defendant has a sufficient claim, one potential winning strategy is to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. Be punctual and dress neatly when going to court. Listen attentively and speak only when directed to do so. If you know any legal language, keep it to yourself. The judge will make the legal points.

Skill level:


    Small Claims Court Fight Strategies

  1. 1

    Appear in court on the right day and at the right time, and do not ignore the court summons. If you are not there, in most cases, the award automatically will be made against you for the amount requested, plus court costs.

  2. 2

    Discover as much as possible about the claimant's action against you. Contact the claimant by phone or e-mail and ask him why the claim was filed.

  3. 3

    Gather any documents between you and the claimant. Get pictures, charts, e-mails, text messages, receipts, cancelled checks, electronic bank statements or other pertinent physical evidence. Touch base with witnesses you would like to testify on your behalf. If your witnesses will not come willingly, ask the court clerk about the procedures for obtaining a subpoena.

  4. 4

    File a counterclaim against the plaintiff after you have been served with an original claim from the claimant. The counterclaim must be written, filed with the court and served against the claimant.

  5. 5

    Merge the counterclaim with the original claim. Both claims will share the same case number and will be heard at the same hearing by the same judge with the same evidence.

  6. 6

    Decrease the total amount of the original claim if you have a successful counterclaim. A counterclaim victory reduces a claim and a counterclaim to one judgment, which means the counterclaim is subtracted from the original claim.

  7. 7

    Pay careful attention to the claimant/plaintiff while she outlines her claim against you. You will have a chance to ask her questions about her claim, and you also will get to question any of her witnesses.

  8. 8

    Present your facts and documents logically, and in chronological order when giving your side of the story.

  9. 9

    Do not object or use any legal language you picked up from television, the Internet or your cousin, the law student. This is not a television legal drama and more than likely, you are not an attorney.

Tips and warnings

  • Be respectful and answer the judge's questions directly. Bring extra copies of all of your documents to give to the judge and to the claimant.

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