I truly believe Barbados needs a Small Claims Court, for too long we had to suffer at the hands of tradesmen, businesses and just about anyone we plan on doing business with.
Landlords are probably the worst off, when tenants have to leave, they sometimes like to destroy property and, in most cases, owe thousands in rent. Commercial landlords can simply lock up shop with all the equipment inside forcing the tenant to pay up, but residential landlords don’t have that law on their side.
Landlords can’t even turn off the water or electricity, thus making life difficult and expensive; the landlord can go after the tenant when they do leave but that’s a cost most landlords just don’t bother with.
On the flip side, a small claims court can be the best friend of businesses; a small claims court would mean a business can go after people without the big expenses just to recover a few thousand dollars.
Regular working Bajans can also go after anyone without the large expenses. Small claim courts are set up to be inexpensive and the filing fee is also much lower than in regular civil court.
Bob the Builder
Mary wants to finish her house after years of saving, so she finds Bob the builder; she pays Bob a deposit; he writes a receipt and tells her he will start work on Monday.
Rather than using the deposit to start work on the following Monday as planned, Bob the Builder decides to go gambling and loses the money. Bob can’t buy the material, so he just goes into hiding for over two months. Now what is sweet little old Mary to do? Well, here is what she is supposed to do – suck it up and count her losses, $6000 in pension gone.
With a small claims court, all Mary has to do is file a claim, pay a small fee of about $50 and wait until Bob is called to court.
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Small Claims Court
You don’t need any lawyers in small claims court. The process is designed to make it easy for people to represent themselves with their own evidence.
Small claims hearings are informal: no arcane legal procedures and evidentiary technicalities.
Of course, you will still be required to prove your case with contracts, invoices, witnesses, pictures of damages, etc.
In court Mary just presents the dated receipt as evidence, then the judge listens to both sides, the plaintiff and defendant. The judge will then make a decision based on common sense and what evidence the parties brought to court, unlike regular court where lawyers argue on your behalf and the judge/jury makes a decision; this could go on for years without ever concluding, and not to mention the cost.
In a small claims court some rules are relaxed, for example, basic common sense is applied, technicalities don’t work, and therefore a decision is given the same day for Bob to return Mary’s money plus any other expenses that were incurred during that time her house was waiting for repairs.
Don’t just run to court because it’s there, make sure you have a good case. Anytime you take someone to court, there is a chance that you can be counter-sued. You can be counter-sued in small claims court.
Court action shouldn’t be your first attempt to get redress. You must be able to show that you have tried to settle a claim before taking court action – if you can’t, the court may penalise you.
The court will expect you to have already made your claim in writing, giving the other person a reasonable amount of time to reply (you should specify a time limit in your complaint letter). You should also warn them that you’ll take court action if they fail to reply within the given time. You never know, just saying this may get them to pay up.
Vigilante Justice Must Not Be An Option
Some people out of frustration won’t be so patient, they might just do the unthinkable and decide to take matters into their own hands, this will make a bad situation worse for both parties involved. Now if Barbados had a small claims court it’s possible that could be avoided.
It would be fun to watch Mary on TV getting her money back from Bob, but those court shows you see on TV aren’t real, sorry to burst your bubble.
Those Television court shows are not real courts. They are television shows with judges that may or may not have been real, they simply offer binding arbitration. It simply means that the litigants must follow the decision of the arbitrator.
The upside is that the television producers pay any judgments that are found for the plaintiff. So, if you are the defendant, it is a very good deal, especially if you have a losing case. Both parties are also paid a fee for their appearance on television.
We have the talent and professionals to set up a small claims court in Barbados to protect people from losing their hard-earned money.
Start the Small Claims court from about $300 up to about $10,000 for people looking to get their money. A filing fee of about $30-$50. You don’t need a big building for a small claims court, the plaintiff, defendant, judge, police and sitting for a few witnesses; a regular office space will do.
I thought I would share this idea on your platform since the government is looking for ideas.
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