Things to know about filing a small claims case
Pursuant to A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, or the 2016 Revised Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases (amended by OCA Circular No. 45-2019, effective 01 April 2019) issued by the Supreme Court of the Philippines, money claims not exceeding P400,000.00 or P300,000.00, depending on the venue of the claim (as amended by OCA Circular No. 45-2019, effective 01 April 2019).
Procedures to be followed are different from that of ordinary lawsuits for collection of sum of money, provided that the claims purely civil in nature where the claim or relief prayed for by the plaintiff is solely for payment or reimbursement of sum of money. All money claims exceeding the above-mentioned amounts are automatically excluded from the rules on small claims, and would be covered by the regular procedure in ordinary collection cases.
If this is your first time to file (or at least, consider filing) a small claims case, then here are some things that you need to know.
Demands that may be enforced under small claims
The following are just some of the examples of claims or demands that may be enforced before the Small Claims Court (as long as the amount does not exceed P400,000.00):
Money owed under the any contract of lease, contract of loan, contract of services, contract of sale; or contract of mortgage;
Liquidated damages arising from contracts;
The enforcement of a barangay amicable settlement or an arbitration award involving a money claim.
How to file a small claims case
Here is a quick guide on the steps to take when filing a small claims case:
Fill up the Statement of Claim – There is no more need for one to draft a complaint for small claims, as the complaining party would need only to fill up a ready-made form called “Statement of Claim” (download the blank forms here). This Statement of Claim would already serve as the complaint in a Small Claims Case.
Attach all necessary documents to the Statement of Claim – Make sure that all documents that you need to prove your claim are already attached to the Statement of Claim, because the court will not allow any evidence that was not attached or submitted together with the Statement of Claim unless good cause is shown for the admission of additional evidence. Also, if you have witnesses, make sure that their affidavits are already attached to the Statement of Claim before you submit it to the court [See: Sec. 6].
Have the Statement of Claim notarized – Towards the end of the Statement of Claim, there is a portion on Verification and Certification Against Forum Shopping. Don’t forget to have it notarized first before filing it with the court.
File the Statement of Claim before the court – The Statement of Claim must be filed before the Metropolitan/Municipal Trial Court of the place where the plaintiff (the one suing), resides, or where the defendant (the one being sued) resides. For being the one suing, since it is you who has the choice on where to file the Statement of Claim, it would be more practical and convenient for you to simply file it in the court of the place where you reside.
The procedure on small claims cases was promulgated for faster resolution of claims. Since the amount of claim is relatively small, it is the court’s policy not to keep these cases from dragging for long periods before finally being decided. Since the proceedings must be speedy, inexpensive, and informal, the procedure was simplified.
Among the most noticeable features of the procedure on small claims cases is that when a Statement of Claim is filed before the court, the court may do either of the following:
Dismiss the claim outright – If upon examination of the allegations contained in the Statement of Claim and the attached evidence, it becomes apparent that there exist grounds for the dismissal of a civil action.
Issue summons and notice of hearing – If no ground for dismissal is found, summons shall be issued on the very day the Statement of Claim was filed before the court, directing the defendant to submit a verified Response. The court shall also issue a notice to both parties, directing them to appear before it on a specific date and time for hearing, with a warning that no unjustified postponement will be allowed.
During the hearings, however, appearance of lawyers is prohibited. It is expressly provided by the rules that no attorney shall appear in behalf of or represent a party at the hearing. 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 a lawyer to assist that party. The only exception to this rule is when the plaintiff or the defendant himself is a lawyer.
Postponements are also discouraged in small claims proceedings. A request for postponement of a hearing may be granted only upon proof of the physical inability of the concerned party to appear before the court on the scheduled date and time. Also, such request for postponement may be availed of by either party only once.
With the promulgation of the rules on small claims cases, collection of relatively small amounts had become much more simple and less expensive. After all, recovery of the money owed to you is not supposed to be difficult, so this innovation in our rules is a welcome development in the field of debt collection.
Source: Alburo Law