Small Claims Big Headache
SUCCESS STORY

Small Claims, Big Headache

In a recent victory, Team Cliff Wilson achieved an expeditious dismissal of a small claims case. Not only did Cliff get the case dismissed, but he recovered a money judgment against the plaintiffs, reimbursing our client for the costs of litigation.

The Background Story

In this case, the plaintiffs had been involved in a motor vehicle accident, sued an insured driver in small claims court, and recovered a modest amount in non-economic damages. After the insured driver’s carrier paid the small claims judgment, the same emboldened plaintiffs turned around and sued the insurer for punitive damages and bad faith, again in small claims court. The plaintiffs were essentially seeking compensation for having to go through the claims process.

In Oregon, unlike at the trial court level, attorneys generally cannot represent clients in small claims court. Additionally, defendants have no mechanism by which they can quickly dismiss frivolous claims without proceeding to at least one hearing. This small claims case was turning into a big headache for the insurer. Read on to find out how Team Wilson turned this situation into a success story.

The Strategy

Cliff knew that attorneys typically cannot represent clients in small claims court. Undeterred, he submitted a motion to appear through counsel, describing the hardship that her out-of-state insurer would have to endure by sending a representative to Oregon. In a rare move, the small claims judge was persuaded by the defense’s motion, and granted the motion to appear on behalf of the insurer for all proceedings in the case.

The next step was to find a way to immediately engage in motions practice, seeking dismissal of the frivolous claims. After demanding a jury trial in trial court, and being advised that the case would need to run its course in small claims court before landing in trial court, Cliff utilized creative litigation methods to persuade the small claims court to allow submission of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a legally cognizable claim, without having to wait for the transfer to the case to trial court. Team Wilson drafted and submitted the motion to dismiss, ultimately convincing the court that the plaintiffs did not have any legal grounds upon which to rest their claims against the insurer. Additionally, Cliff sought our client’s costs for having to defend the case, which were awarded by the court. Those costs were collected and returned to the insurer.

The Outcome

Insurers are no strangers to frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, insurers often wind up paying “nuisance money” or high defense costs to deal with these cases. Instead, Cliff resolved the case while keeping costs low, handling the matter expeditiously, and even managed to compensate the client for the costs of litigation. This success story has earned Smith Freed Eberhard yet another appreciative client.

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