The jurisdictional limit for suing in conciliation court – or the most you can ask for – is $15,000. So, if somebody owes you $15,000 or less, I would probably recommend suing in conciliation court. However, if you have provided professional services or have done work on a titled piece of personal property (the most common is probably a motor vehicle), then you may have a lien for the amount of your services that could be enforced outside of conciliation court. Of course, if your claim is for more than $15,000, you should consider suing in District Court, where damages are not limited.
To win in conciliation court, you must prove both liability and damages. In other words, you must prove that the defendant actually owes you the money, and the amount that they owe you. If you win your conciliation court case, you will wind up with a conciliation court judgment for the amount of your claim that you were able to prove. The conciliation court judgment will be stayed for a period of time to allow the defendant to appeal, if the defendant wishes.
Once the time for appeal has passed, you should immediately docket (or transfer) the judgment from conciliation court to District Court by filing a document called an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor. A District Court judgment shows up on a person's credit report, so the defendant will be unable to obtain major financing – such as a mortgage loan – with your judgment on their record. In addition, having a judgment in District Court gives you the right to garnish wages and bank accounts to collect your judgment.
I can't really speak for other attorneys, but I know that I will collect on a judgment for a contingent fee of one third of any amounts collected, less expenses. Typically, I require an expense retainer in advance. Collecting on a judgment is hard work. Whether you are able to collect anything depends on several factors, including but not limited to if the debtor is working, receives public assistance, and has an active bank account set up at a bank or credit union.
Tim represents creditors – both consumer and business – in collection matters. Tim also represents consumer and small business debtors in bankruptcy, and brings this perspective – the perspective of an attorney representing debtors – to collections. I somebody owes you money, or if you have a judgment that you need help collecting on, please give Tim a call at 763-450-9494 to set up a consultation. Tim charges $250 for a consultation, and will advise you about your rights under the law and options available to you.
DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent. We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.
WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation. Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog. To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.