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Small Claims Court - Defendant Questions

 

What should you do if you have been sued?

The best answer to this question is not to ignore the whole thing. You should be served with the Summons and Declaration at least five days before the hearing date. If you feel you need time to prepare for the hearing, go to Court and ask the judge to continue the hearing, or contact the plaintiff and ask for a continuance. If the plaintiff agrees to continue ask the Small Claims Clerk a date and time for the hearing.

If you do not wish to contest the plaintiff’s claim, you may settle the claim with the plaintiff before the hearing date. If you cannot pay the amount in full, ask the plaintiff if you can pay by installments. If the plaintiff agrees, both you and the plaintiff will sign a Stipulated Installment Payment and Order Form. You can obtain this form at the Small Claims Division. The plaintiff would then get a Consent Judgment form, fill it out and submit it together with the Stipulated Installment Payment Order to the Small Claims Court before or at the hearing. If you pay the plaintiff the full amount, the plaintiff would then file the Order of Dismissal and inform the court to cancel the hearing.

At the hearing the Judge will then ask both sides to present their evidence to the court. After hearing both sides and looking at all the evidence, the judge will make a decision. The judge’s decision becomes the judgment of the case.

If you do not agree that you owe the plaintiff any money, you may deny the claim by orally answering the complaint at the noticed hearing and state to the court why you do not owe the money to the plaintiff, or you may file a Counterclaim. This form may also be obtained at the Small Claims counter and must be filed at least 48 hrs. before the trial the judge sets.

What happens if you are properly served with the Summons and Declaration and do not go to the hearing?

If you do not show up at the hearing and the plaintiff has proof that you were served, the court may enter a Default Judgment. If you have a very good reason why you did not show up to the hearing, you can request with the court to vacate the Default Judgment. A form called, Notice of Motion, which can be obtained at the Small Claims counter must be filled out and returned back for a hearing date.

Preparing for Court

Preparation for your trial is very important. It is necessary that you should always be present for all court hearings. Be there promptly. Be sure to bring to the trial any papers, receipts, bills, estimates, photos, documents, etc. to defend your case. Gather all evidence you need, contact witness to appear and testify and plan of what to say at the hearing. If necessary, bring a diagram or drawing to facilitate your explanation.

What happens at the trial?

BE ON TIME – if you are late, the judge may enter judgment in favor of plaintiff and your counterclaim may be dismissed.
RELAX – you will have the chance to tell the side of your case and show your evidence.
BE BRIEF – however do not leave out important facts, names, dates and places.

What happens after the hearing is over?

If the plaintiff was given a judgment, the court determined that you owe the plaintiff money. If you do not agree with the judge’s decision, you have the right to appeal to the civil division. You will have to file a Motion For A New Trial and pay a filing fee and another judge will hear the case all over again.

What could the plaintiff do to satisfy the judgment?

The plaintiff can file a Writ of Execution and may garnish your wages and seize your property, monies at the bank belonging to you in order to satisfy the judgment in the event you fail to pay as promised.

What to do when you pay the judgment in full.

After you pay the judgment in full tell the plaintiff to file an Order of Dismissal or Satisfaction of Judgment with the Small Claims Court. THIS ENDS THE CASE.

Checklist for Defendant:

  1. Contact Plaintiff to discuss and try to settle.
  2. Familiarize yourself with Small Claims Court procedures.
  3. If you have a claim against the Plaintiff consider resolving it at the same hearing.
  4. Prepare for court (organize thoughts, collect evidence and talk to witnesses).
  5. Keep communications open, try to resolve dispute(s) before the hearing.
  6. Attend all court hearings and be prepared to present your case.
  7. If you owe something, try to either pay it or work out a payment plan prior to the scheduled hearing.
  8. If necessary, ask the court to postpone the hearing to let you and the plaintiff resolve the dispute informally.
  9. Try to avoid judgment being entered against you, since it may appear on your credit record.
  10. File a counterclaim if you feel the plaintiff owes you.
  11. Please Note: The text and content of this publication was prepared by the Superior Court of Guam, office of the Clerk of Court and the generalized Administrative Division. The purpose of this publication is to provide answers to the questions most frequently raised by Guam’s citizens concerning the Small Claims Court. This publication is not intended to bind Judges or amend the existing laws and procedures controlling the Small Claims Court.

Additional publications about Guam’s court systems are available upon request at the Superior Court Building.