If the Oregon Legislature passes 2011 HB 2710, as amended on 6/27, it will increase the jurisdictional limit of Small Claims Court to $10,000.
You can find this bill (HB 2710 B-engrossed, June 27, 2011) from the Legislature’s Measure Search or Bills website.
Legal minds will differ on this, but my informal tally so far shows that there are an awful lot of consumer-friendly lawyers worrying about this increase in jurisdictional amount from $7,500 to $10,000, without some corresponding court-managed small claims case preparation assistance made available (the way the courts provide family law assistance for self-represented litigants).
Ten thousand dollars is a whole lot of money in our world, of solo practitioners and law librarians.
The responses have been along the line of, “when there is that much money on the table, people need to talk to a lawyer. Remember, there is no appeal from a Small Claims case filed in Circuit Court.”
And I say:
“Ten thousand dollars is a whole lot of money!
I have been a law librarian for 25+ years. I can research the heck out of legal questions. But I hire lawyers. If I was being sued, or if I filed a lawsuit, in Small Claims Court (or any other court), I’d consult an attorney.
I might do most of the research and drafting myself, but I would consult an attorney. (I would also negotiate hard for a reduced fee.)
If you need expert advice, get it from an expert, even if it means brown-bagging lunch and eating oatmeal, beans, and rice for a month, in order to save up that money. Some things are worth paying for and you might be out a whole heck of a lot more money if you don’t get tough with yourself from the start.”
The Oregon State Bar can refer people to small claims court coaches and and also to consumer, bankruptcy, and debtor-creditor lawyers would be able to assist plaintiffs and defendants in small claims court. But read the laws about Oregon Small Claims Court (in Circuit Court and in Justice Court ).