Rock Island, IL asked in Consumer Law, Contracts, Small Claims and Civil Litigation for Iowa

Q: Can you sue in small claims court for money and the termination of a contract on a car?

I was sold a car and the dealership committed fraud and lied in their contract. The contract is worth 18,000. I want to retrieve $5,000 from them and also want the debt of the contract to be gone. Can I do this if the small claims court max is $5,000?

1 Lawyer Answer
Harley C. Erbe
Harley C. Erbe
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Licensed in Iowa

A: If you have good evidence of fraud, there's no reason to limit yourself to small claims court. You should instead pursue a claim in regular district court under Iowa's private consumer fraud act, Iowa Code Chapter 714H. I have information about that law on my website. Iowa Code Chapter 714H allows you to recover your actual damages, attorney fees, and expenses, plus possibly "treble" damages, which can be an additional amount of money three times the amount of your actual damages. Iowa Code Chapter 714H also allows the court to order other relief as the court deems appropriate, such as perhaps voiding the contract.

Another reason to avoid small claims court in a fraud case is that you're not allowed to seek information from the defendant before a small claims hearing. In small claims court, you usually go to the hearing with whatever evidence you've gathered through your own sources. But in regular district court, you're allowed to request relevant information from the defendant's records during the pretrial process. That's important in a fraud case because you have to prove what the defendant knew and when it knew it, or you lose. That often can't be done, or can't be done as well, without seeking such information directly from the defendant, which means that you're really handcuffing yourself if you attempt a fraud claim in small claims court.

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