Over the next several days, I’m going to write a series of posts of improvements that I think should be made to Connecticut’s courts. The creation of a “medium claims” docket would help make Connecticut a more business friendly state.
Sometimes I advise small businesses to use the small claims system even though their debt may exceed the $5000 jurisdictional limit. For example, say a client is owed $5700. It is cheaper and faster to right off that $700 and proceed with a case in small claims court.
Right now I have a contested collections case between two business. The amount is approximately $20,000. The case was filed in July of 2010. Pleadings were closed in early December of 2010. A pretrial was held yesterday and the matter was set down for trial in March of 2012. The case is simple. It’s at best a morning bench trial. It’s the kind of issue that’s resolved in small claims court in short order. The delay and the uncertainty are bad for my client’s business.
The benefits of small claims court is that it’s usually fast. Trials are held months after a complaint is filed. Pleadings and discovery are condensed. Win or lose the matter is usually resolved within about 6 months. My client would love nothing more than to have his day in court.
For many Connecticut small businesses problems can arise when debts are between $10,000 and $25,000. Those amounts are too high to write off and two low to engage in full scale litigation.
My proposal is to create a docket for claims arising out of breach of contract – a collections docket for disputes under $25,000. More time could be saved by creating mandatory discovery and disclosure provisions in the practice book similar to those used in divorces and car accidents. Limiting pleadings or at least the time to file them would also help speed the process up. The judicial branch should guarantee bench trials within six months of the return date or at least target such a goal.
Providing businesses with certainty both in terms of process and time will help drive down the cost of doing business in the state. The judicial branch should consider creating a “medium claims” docket. Such a docket would help Connecticut small business.