Small Claims Court Assistance

We frequently have clients requesting assistance with a matter in the Small Claims Court as the debt owing is usually too little to justify expensive litigation; the problem however is that legal representatives are not permitted to practice in the Small Claims Court. For this reason, below is an exposition of the process in the Small Claims Court to assist individuals which may not know how to go about a Small Claims Court Claim.

What is the Small Claims Court?

The Small Claims Court is a court that allows a person to institute a claim of R20,000 or less wherein no legal representation by an attorney or advocate is allowed. If a claim exceeds R20,000, part of the claim may be abandoned as the Small Claims Court cannot grant judgment above R20,000. The Small Claims Court is usually located in the local Magistrates Court building.

Types of Claims

The Small Claims Court does not deal with claims exceeding R20,000 in value unless a portion of the claim is abandoned. It does not deal with claims against the State (including municipalities), matters of a criminal nature, matters for damages in respect of defamation, wrongful imprisonment or wrongful arrest. It does not deal with divorces or matters concerning the validity and interpretation of a Will. It also does not hear matters concerning the status of a person in respect of their mental capacity, matters regarding interdicts or matters in which specific performance is sought without an alternative claim for payment of damages, except in the case of a claim for rendering an account, delivering or transferring of property.

The Procedure

The clerk of the Small Claims Court will assist a person with the procedure free of charge. Before instituting a claim, the clerk will provide a letter of demand to complete which will provide a clear description of the case. The Plaintiff (party seeking a claim) will the send this letter to the Defendant (Person against whom a claim is sought) providing them with 14 days to settle the claim. The letter must be served on the Defendant. Should a Defendant not settle a claim, the Plaintiff will report to the clerk and the clerk will issue summons against the Defendant upon the submission of the requisite documentation. If a Defendant wishes to defend a claim, he/she will supply a written statement to the clerk of the court and to the Plaintiff before the date of hearing of the matter. On the date of hearing, the parties along with nay witnesses must be present to give evidence. After both sides have been heard, judgement will be granted in favour of either party. Should judgment not be complied with within 10 days, this will result in a warrant being issued which will be sent to the sheriff to execute against the property of the individual who has not complied.

Conclusion

Should you be unsure about the process which needs to be followed or which court to approach with a claim you may have, or should you wish to defend a claim against you, feel free to contact us so we may assist you with you matter.