Don’t Bother with Small Claims Court
In North Carolina, Small Claims Court is a venue where parties try and settle civil disputes for $10,000 or less. Depending on how sophisticated you are with the legal system, you may be able to win judgment here with or without an attorney. The rules of evidence are relaxed and the party is judged more on fairness rather than specific legal theories.
However, win or lose, if you have an attorney, they will likely inform you of the potential for wasting your time and money in small claims court. See, no matter what, in Small Claims court, the losing party has a right to appeal the decision and get a brand new trial, de novo.
De novo means that a party has a right to appeal to the next level to a new court and a new judge. You get a complete do over! This means no matter what happened at the level below, the slate is wiped clean. In fact, not only in Small Claims court, but in District court as well you are allowed a brand new trial de novo.
What does this mean? This means you should try and find an attorney who knows how to get you right to District court or even more powerful right to Superior court, from the beginning. If you get to Superior court you will have everything on an official record and the defendant will not be able to appeal de novo. This does not mean that the losing party will not be able to appeal, but it does mean the defendant will not get a clean slate.
District and Superior court also gives you the opportunity for a jury trial. A jury trial might be beneficial based on the facts of your case. You also will save time, energy, and money by not going to court multiple times. A victory in Superior court is likely a complete victory unless the opposing party can point to something the judge or jury did incorrectly.
So, I know you like Judge Judy and Judge Mathis, but you are much better off skipping this point of the legal process. Try and find an attorney who can get you to the higher court at the very beginning and you strategically, will be in a much better position.