The dollar limits within the Small Claims Division of the Virgin Islands Superior Court has increased to $10,000, which has made the court a viable option for business owners to resolve disputes quickly, easily and, perhaps most importantly, at a lower expense than was previously possible.
These types of disputes often occur between business owners and suppliers, customers or subcontractors. The most common cases in small claims courts involve business owners either collecting overdue bills or resolving disputes.
What types of disputes occur?
It’s quite common to see contractual disputes occur between two small businesses or a business and a customer. Many of these cases involve a disagreement that the goods or services provided were of poor quality, were provided late or were not provided at all. Other claims could involve simple breaches of contract.
Finding success in small claims court
If the parties involved in a dispute fail to resolve the problem through their own negotiations or through mediation, they then have the opportunity to present their case in front of a small claims court judge. The judge will most likely side with the party that is better able to articulate its argument, so it is important to be prepared going into the hearing with a succinct, persuasive claim. It’s best to work with a civil litigation attorney to ensure you are ready for the hearing.
Part of this process is collecting as much evidence as you can to support your arguments in court. If, for example, your claim is primarily over a breach of contract, you should be able to produce that written contract and evidence of the other party’s breach. If you are involved in a case in which you are forced to defend the quality of your work, you might consider getting an industry expert to write a letter stating how your work met industry standards.
In cases centering on the timeliness of work, you should be able to produce evidence as to when the work was delivered and when it was expected to be delivered. This means documenting communications between you and the other party and producing copies of any contracts you both signed.
Although small claims court might not necessarily seem like a big deal, it’s still important to consult a lawyer to help you figure out exactly which arguments you need to make and the types of evidence you need to support your claims.
If you find yourself engaged in a business dispute that will likely head to small claims court, speak with a skilled civil litigation attorney to protect your best interests.
Adam Marinelli is an experience civil litigation attorney in the Litigation Practice Group of BoltNagi PC, an established and widely respected civil litigation law firm serving individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.