Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Filing a Case Under The Rule on Small Claims: Salient Features

The Rule on Small Claims that has become effective on October 1, 2008 has greatly simplified what seems to be a complex and lengthy legal process to laymen.

In other advanced countries like Canada which introduced this concept to our legal system, the Rule on Small Claims has been in use for quite some time, unclogging the courts of small cases through quick resolutions.

Even in the magical world of Ella Enchanted, her elf companion was ostracized by his fellow elves who are naturally entertainers because he wanted to be a lawyer. Because of his small stature, he was taunted to be only able to appear in the small claims court.

But the parties -- plaintiff and defendant alike -- who have undergone the small claims system have given a sigh of relief because of its relatively fast resolution in a matter of months, unlike in the old days when claims PhP100,000.00 and below take years and humongous attorney's fees to settle until there is nothing really left for a PhP50,000.00 claim.

In fact, the Rule on Small Claims specifically shuns the presence of lawyers in the small claims court.

Section 17 of the Rule on Small Claims provides, "No attorney shall appear in behalf of or represent a party at the hearing, unless the attorney is the plaintiff or defendant."

Furthermore, "If the court determines that a party cannot properly present his/her claim or defense and needs assistance, the court may, in its discretion, allow another individual who is not an attorney to assist that party upon the latter’s consent" (italics supplied).

Wow! Apparently, this is where people like me come in! ;-)

The procedure is really as easy as pie:

1. File two copies of the duly accomplished and verified Statement of Claim which is readily available at the court where you are to file your small claims case (Section 5, Rule on Small Claims);

2. Pay PhP2,700.00 filing fee and process server's fee (PhP1,000.00 which is already included in the PhP2,700.00) [the PhP1,000.00 is even refundable if it is not completely used up by the process server for his transportation. In our court, however, the process servers do not bother the laborious process (they say it's more complicated than filing a small claims case!) of claiming their transportation expenses from the PhP1,000.00 allowance, thus this can be withdrawn wholly when the case is terminated] (Section 8, Rule on Small Claims);

3. Summons (Section 10, Rule on Small Claims);

4. Response within 10 days, non-extendible (Section 11, Rule on Small Claims);

5. Note the prohibited pleadings (Section 14, Rule on Small Claims);

6. Appearance for Judicial Dispute Resolution (Section 16, Rule on Small Claims);

7. One-time postponement only (Section 19, Rule on Small Claims);

8. One-day hearing upon failure of JDR (Section 22, Rule on Small Claims);

9. Same-day decision which is FINAL and UNAPPEALABLE (Section 23, Rule on Small Claims);

10. Execution of decision upon motion (Section 24, Rule on Small Claims).

My personal experience on this law:

Funny, I had to wait for some two months or until the Decision was finally served to the other party before I filed for a Motion for Execution when the Rule is silent on this matter.

Funny, the other party recently filed an appeal obviously assisted by counsel inspite of the glaring FINAL and UNAPPEALABLE provision.

Hmmmmm.... I just wondered how much more did the other party had to pay for the mistake of filing the appeal obviously fueled by simple pride not to accede to the small claims court's sound judgment.

If only she had accepted the hand of friendship I have offered to her in open court, because settlement should have been the objective of the small claims court.

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