Try to Mediate

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Engaging in mediation is frequently beneficial to the defendant, because mediation tends to encourage a compromise settlement for a lower amount than the plaintiff has demanded. In addition, mediation gives the defendant a chance to raise issues that would not be considered relevant by a small claims court judge. For example, in a dispute between neighbors, local businesspeople, or relatives, mediation affords an opportunity for both legal and emotional concerns to be raised and dealt with. (See Chapter 6 for more on mediation.)

Ask the small claims clerk for help setting up mediation. Mediation of small claims cases works in various ways in different states. In many it can take place in the courthouse itself and is encouraged by the small claims court. In others, it's available at a nearby community mediation project. Ask the small claims court clerk where mediation is available in your area. Then, if necessary, contact the mediation project and enlist their help in bringing the plaintiff to the table.

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