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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

About to sue someone in NC?

So far, the regular session of the 2013-2014 North Carolina General Assembly has passed 262 bills. Controversy over politics notwithstanding, most of the adopted legislation is obscure or innocuous. But if you're thinking of filing a lawsuit in this state, you might want to read this bill, which the News & Observer has not mentioned.

Of particular interest to you and me: the limit on small claims has been raised from $5,000 to $10,000. The increase essentially reverses the effect of years of inflation since the limit was originally set. Even so, $10,000 is a lot of money, as lawyer Matt Cordell cautions in this piece. Also, remember that if you win in small claims court, the defendant can easily get a retrial in District Court... which leads me to my next point.

The bill makes other changes to civil litigation, most of which are not significant to the ordinary citizen with one exception: we can expect to see more non-binding arbitration in North Carolina when less than $25,000 is at stake. Lawyer Marshall Wall writes that the effects of this change are difficult to predict. Note further that a party who doggedly pursues a small claims action through appeals but ultimately loses may have to pay for the victor's lawyers, advises the law firm McAngus Goudelock & Courie.

Basic information about small claims in North Carolina can be found at this website, among others. (Their information has not been updated to reflect the most recent changes.) Of course, you should consult a lawyer before you do anything.

Are these changes part of the Republican agenda? No. The vote on final passage was 113-1 in the House and 49-0 in the Senate.