Q: Does the plaintiff have to provide copies of receipts, emails, etc to the defendant prior to the court date?
This is a small claim court case related to a training we provided to an entity's personnel. They agreed via email to the terms and conditions. We provided the training and have proof of the service being provided. The other party never paid and never disputed. They just didn't pay even though their billing staff communicated with us and said they will pay. After 8 months, the other party was served. Now, the defendant's paralegal has asked us to provide to them the exhibits we plan on providing to the court on the day of hearing. Are we obligated to share with them our proofs or anything else prior to the hearing? We have email proof that the service was agreed upon, the service was provided, the invoice was sent, they acknowledged they had the invoice, in addition to numerous phone calls with them for almost 6 months and have copies of all of the communication. Should we share that with them?
A: Short Answer, NO. Small claims is meant to be an expedited trial situation for cases of a smaller value (used to be $2500, now up to $10,000). There is no "discovery" in Small claims, but other forms of compelling the production of witnesses and evidence, such as the subpoena power of the Court, are available. What you are facing is a request for you to provide information to the other side, which is not based on any legal obligation.
Here is what you need to do for small claims:
1. A written brief with a short statement of the facts and a summary of the damages you are claiming, for the judge. You need a copy for the other party to have at the time of the trial.
2. Any documents you want to present should be in a notebook with an index. You do not have to have a copy to give the other side, but that makes things easier. If you do want to provide them a copy, you need to provide them whatever you give the judge, but you don't have to make it as pretty as for the Judge. The index and the copies attached is fine, as long as they get everything.
3. If you are going to testify, you should make an outline of what you are going to say. Get right to the point. Be specific on dates and refer to the exhibits by number.
4. You only have to tell the story once. Small Claims judges have heard this all before. Your are not going to win by acting like Atticus Finch, it isn't a jury trial.
THE OPINIONS STATED HEREIN ARE BASED ON THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE QUESTION,WITHOUT ANY INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION. THIS ADVICE IS NOT BINDING ON A COURT OF LAW. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY OF YOUR CHOOSING IN YOUR LOCAL AREA TO PROTECT YOUR IMPORTANT PERSONAL RIGHTS. THIS DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY/ CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN US.
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