Up to $15,000 in most cases
Conciliation court, also called “Small Claims” court, can be an inexpensive and simple way to convert collectibles into judgments. Beginning August 1st, conciliation plaintiffs will be able to claim up to $15,000 in most cases. For plaintiffs in consumer credit matters, the maximum claim will remain at $4,000.00. See Minnesota Statutes § 491A.01, subd. 3a.
Conciliation court is a less expensive and less formal type of court in which parties generally appear without an attorney. Individuals are allowed to represent themselves and most business entities are allowed to be represented by an officer, manager, partner, or an employee who has been authorized by the entity to represent it in that matter. See Minnesota Statutes § 491A.02, subd. 4. Each party is allowed to state the facts of the case and present evidence such as documents or witnesses to a referee, who then decides what relief is appropriate. The referee issues an order that can become a judgment if neither party appeals it within 30 days.
Conciliation claims can be a great way for plaintiffs to save money. Generally it is not necessary to have an attorney present at conciliation hearings, which can reduce costs. Additionally, filing fees are significantly lower and the process of exchanging documents (known as discovery) is generally less formal and less expensive than for district court.
One item to be wary of in conciliation claims, however, is that either party can have the conciliation referee’s decision vacated by converting the matter to a district court case within 30 days. See Minnesota Statutes § 491A.02, subd. 6. If that occurs, the parties will then be subject to all of the costs and timelines of a normal district court case. Though most cases reach a similar result in district court, the district court matter is considered an entirely new trial and can result in any outcome the court deems appropriate.
If you’re considering bringing a conciliation court action, speak with an attorney who can advise you on drafting your claim and presenting your case. That attorney can also help you collect if you are awarded a judgment.