Suing over peanuts

A few people have contacted me recently to assist them with matters where they have been sued for relatively small amounts of money.  By “small amounts of money”, I am referring to amounts under R10 000.  What generally seems to happen is that the plaintiff gets a bee in his/her bonnet and issues a summons out of the local Magistrates Court for payment of this small amount of money. 

Often the tactic is to get the defendant, you, thinking that it isn’t worth defending a court action over that amount of money.  This is a good point.  Litigation proceedings are expensive and you can certainly expect to spend far more than R10 000 on a trial action, even in the Magistrates Court.  To add to this dilemma, litigants rarely recover all their costs (in fact, more often than not they don’t) so even a victory can be a little hollow.

The problem is that if you are not liable then why should you have to pay the plaintiff anything?  It is a difficult situation to be in and one which you should think carefully about.  On one hand the plaintiff may give up and try withdraw the action if he/she finds him/herself faced with a determined defendant.  On the other hand you, as the defendant, may find yourself in a protracted battle over a few thousand rands.

If you happen to be in the position of the plaintiff and someone owes you less than R7 000 then you may want to consider the Small Claims Court.  Natural persons (human beings) are able to issue a summons out of the Small Claims Court for claims up to R7 000.  This procedure has its advantages.  No lawyers are allowed and the actual trial is fairly informal with a commissioner taking a fairly active role in the determination of the appropriate finding.  If you are serious about your claim and your claim falls within the jurisdiction of this court, then make use of this process.  On the other hand, if you have money to burn, my contact details are on the right.  🙂

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