Before you sue the other side back

If you're sued in a small claims case, you can sue the other side back, but before you do, there are things you need to figure out.

Small claims questions

Do you have a legal reason you can sue? How much money you can ask for? Who should you sue and how do you find them? You'll need to figure out the answer to these and other questions before you file a case in court.

Figuring out the answers will help you when you need to fill out forms to start a case against the other side, and going through this process may even help you figure out if you should file a small claims case at all.

What to figure out before you sue the other side back

  • Do you have a legal reason to sue the other side?

    If you think the other side owes you money, you need to learn whether there is a legal reason they owe you money. And, if there is, what that reason is.

    You’ll need to be able to tell the judge at your court date if you go to court. Legal reasons (“the law”) may be different from the reasons you feel someone owes you money.

    • Example: Tree Trimming

      You trim the branches on a tree whose trunk is on your neighbor's side of the fence. But, the branches overhang onto your side of the fence. Your neighbor may feel you can’t trim the tree because it’s their tree. But, the law allows you to trim what’s on your side of the property line (there are exceptions to this you can research). So if they sued you for trimming their tree the law says you could sue them back.

  • Figure out if the other side owes you money

    Sometimes who owes you money is clear. But sometimes there are other people who should also be sued in your lawsuit that you may not have thought of.

    • Example: who to sue in a car accident

      If you are in a car accident it’s clear you would sue the person who hit your car if it was their fault. But you can also sue the owner of the car if that’s a different person than the driver, even if they weren’t in the car with the driver during the accident. On the other hand, you don’t sue the other driver’s insurance company. If you were sued by another driver but not the owner of their car and want to sue the driver and owner back, you'd need to start a new court case.

    When you sue the other side back in your small claims case you can only sue Plaintiffs who are already in your case. 

    If you want to sue others, too, you'll either need to (1) sue your Plaintiff(s) and the other people all together in a new, separate case, or (2) just sue the other people in a new case. 
  • Do you know how much money to ask for?

    Just like figuring out what laws support your case and who to sue, you also need to figure out how much money to sue for before you sue the other side back.

    • borrowed car Or bathroom remodel? 

      Your ex-friend is suing you because they gave you their old car and are now saying they just let you borrow it. They are claiming the car's worth $3,000 and want the court to order you to pay that. They gave you the car to pay you back for remodeling their bathroom. You could sue them back for the time and cost you spent on the remodel, which could be $3,000 or a different amount.

    Also research if there are laws that give you the right to ask for more money than the basic amount you think you're owed. An example of this is when a landlord doesn't refund a security deposit or give a reason why within 21 days. In that case, the law says you can sue for more than the security deposit amount because the landlord didn't follow the law.

    Small claims court is only for cases where a person asks for less than $10,000 or $5,000 if the money is owed to a business. If you or your business wants to ask for more, you can ask for the case to be heard in regular civil court. Talk to a Small Claims Advisor to find out more.
  • Do you have proof?

    You don’t have to have all your proof together before you sue the other side back. But, you need to know what proof to get to show the other side and bring to your court date.

    Examples of proof (also called evidence) are:

    • Repair receipts
    • Photos of damage
    • Emails
    • Business records
    • Example: bills for repair costs

      Someone’s car hit your car. They're suing you for damages but you have a police report showing the other driver is at fault. But, you haven’t finished the body work repairs so you don’t have a bill to show how much the other driver owes you. Make sure you have the paid invoice to bring with you to your court hearing.

    • Example: Pictures of a clean apartment

      Your landlord doesn’t want to return your security deposit and wouldn’t do a walk-through with you when you moved out. They're suing you so you'll pay for damages that cost more than your deposit. In your court case against the landlord you would bring photos of the clean home with timestamps that show when the photos were taken and/or have your friend who saw the clean home come to your court date to talk about it.

    You can use a subpoena to get the proof you need

    If there’s information you need for your court hearing, like business records, and that the business won’t give you them voluntarily, you may need to serve the business with a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order for someone to give you business records or come to court to talk to the judge at your hearing, or both.

    If you need more time to get your proof together,

     ask the court to reschedule your court date. Ask the clerk's office or your Small Claims Advisor for information about how to reschedule.

Small Claims

What's next?

Once you've figure out if you want to sue the other side back, for how much, and why, you can start to fill out the Defendant's Claim form.

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