Jury Trials

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Jury trials are not available in small claims court in the great majority of states. Plaintiffs know this when they file and can usually opt for a different court if they want trial by jury. Defendants, of course, don't have this up-front choice. To compensate, some states allow a defendant who wants a jury trial to transfer a case to a formal court no matter how small the claim. Others allow transfer only when the defendant's claim exceeds the small claims court maximum. Normally, a defendant must request a jury trial (or a transfer to a court where a jury is permitted) promptly after being served with court papers. And jury fees (often ranging from $100 to $500) must typically be paid in advance. Fees are normally recoverable if you win. Asking for a jury trial also tends to delay proceedings, and some people make the request for this reason.

by: Ralph Warner

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