What if I lose my Small Claims or District Court collection lawsuit?

What if I lose my Small Claims or District Court collection lawsuit?

What if I lose my Small Claims or District Court collection lawsuit?Anytime a trial happens, someone will win and someone will lose. So what do you do if  the collector wins and you lose the collection lawsuit?

You basically have two options:

  1. Settle with the debt collector (debt buyer); or
  2. Appeal the loss

Let’s look at these starting with the first option . . . .

Settle with the debt collector (debt buyer)

Option one is to work things out with the collection lawyer — you lost the case so the debt collector has the advantage.  But from the collector’s standpoint, winning the case is not the same thing as you paying the collector.

So discuss a reasonable settlement that everyone can live with.  The advantage is you are done with the case once you pay. The disadvantage is you have a judgment against you on your credit report for many years.

But what if you don’t want to settle — instead you want to continue to fight . . . .

Appeal the loss

Anytime someone loses a case, they have the option to appeal.  Where and how you appeal depends on which court you were sued in.

If you were sued in Small Claims or District court, then you an automatic right to appeal. This is because you (and the company that sued you) have a constitutional right to a trial by jury. But since there is no right to a trial by jury in small claims (or district court), you must have a right to appeal to circuit court where we can have jury trials.

You have 14 days to appeal.  When you pay a fee when you file the right paperwork in the clerk’s office at the courthouse you will have the case appealed to circuit court.

The case starts over — “de novo” — as if it was originally filed in circuit court. The circuit court judge doesn’t really care who won or lost in the lower court (small claims or district). Appeals are rare as typically the same result will happen in circuit court as district or small claims court.  But you do have this option.

Now if you were sued in Circuit court and you lose in Circuit court, your appeal options are much more difficult.  You are looking at a fairly expensive and time-consuming appeal to either the Court of Civil Appeals or the Alabama Supreme Court.  In this appeal, you do have to convince the appeals court that the judge in your case did something wrong.  You do this by writing legal briefs and possibly arguing the case in Montgomery.

(You also have the option to ask any judge to “reconsider” or “alter, amend or vacate” the ruling but this is rarely successful).

To be blunt, most appeals are unsuccessful as it is always better to go to Montgomery as the winner, not the loser.  But sometimes appeals work so you do have this option.

OK, now I know what happens if I lose — how do I avoid this?

The best thing to do is to figure out which of your five options is best for you when you have been sued.  You can also get in touch with us by calling us at 205-879-2447 or contacting us through our website www.AlabamaConsumer.com.

We’ll be happy to help you any way we can — thanks for reading this and feel free to share this article or comment below.

John G. Watts
Watts & Herring, LLC
Birmingham and Madison Offices in Alabama
We represent consumers from all parts of Alabama

PS — you might enjoy reading our article on the five mistakes debt buyers don’t want you to know about when they sue you in Alabama.

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