I filed a small claims suit against a car dealer for a car-repair-gone-bad, but the dealer has demanded the case be heard in the civil court. Of course this means dealing with a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo (no disrespect intended). The money involved here is small, less than $6,000. I've been told that it would cost more than half of that to retain counsel. In any event, here's where I'm at now. I've received the written answer from the defendant. Stated under the heading of affirmative defenses are things like: Plaintiff's claims are barred pursuant to statute of limitations - unable to demonstrate any damages - barred by res judicata/collateral estopped... This, franky, is hogwash. I have solid documentation that the repair was improperly performed. As I understand it, my challenge is in getting this documented evidence admitted. I don't have space enough here to elaborate further. How can we proceed?
As I mentioned, I filled a small claims suit, but the defendant has demanded a civil hearing. I have their written answer to my complaint. The court tells me that they'll send me a letter telling me when to appear for a pre-trial hearing (I think that's what they're calling it). I'm not entirely clear on what that entails and how formal or informal that is. Is that a hearing to try to mitigate? My evidence is as follows: Repair order/invoice from the original repair performed by the defendant showing what parts were used (and consequently what parts were not used, which is the main issue, which I'll get to in a moment) - Repair order/invoice from the shop where my vehicle was towed after the breakdown stating what they found - The repair procedure from General Motors outlining the 'proper' repair method. The issue is this: The defendant replaced oil cooler lines on 2/5/08. It was expressed that this repair came with a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty. 10-months and 7,000 miles later, one of the lines 'blew' (became disconnected). This resulted in an immediate and total loss of engine oil which then resulted in a 'spun main bearing.' In other words, the engine is toast. The documentation that I have clearly shows that aspects of the repair were not performed properly and thus were responsible for the breakdown and resulting damage. The dealer, of course, has refused to make any repairs and has in effect told me to 'go pound sand.' I'm pleased to clarify more as necessary.
What state are you in?
I'm in Michigan. Perhaps the "Already Tried" info that I just sent will be helpful.
Wait for the pretrial hearing. That is more of a control date and informal in that the court will try to settle the case, and schedule it for trial.
Would you mind elaborating on that please? How is this pretrial thing likely to go down? Is this an opportunity to present my story? Will I be able to present the evidence that I have that supports my story? Also, what about all of that 'stuff' in his written answer? - barred by res judicata/collateral estopped - and so forth? Is that standard template stuff that lawyers put in to cover a myriad of possibilities? Do I ignore it, respond to it, what? I'm pretty sure the defendant is not going to want to settle, so I need to know how to prepare for this pretrial thing as well as the trial itself.
The judge or his clerk will want to hear what the case is about from each of you and find out if settlement is possible, if discovery is needed, and if not it will proceed to schedule a trial date. You should bring your evidence with you so as to impress on the judge the merit of your claim.
Can the defendant's attorney object to any of my evidence or testimony about the facts at this pretrial? For example, I've been told that they could object to my submitting repair orders/invoices as that could be considered hearsay. On the other hand, I've done research and found that 'records of regularly conducted activity' is admissible. In your last answer you referred to discovery. What might that entail? And I still don't know what, if anything, I should respond to regarding their written answer. I appreciate that you can't predict every possible contingency, but a little more clarification would be most appreciated.
Invoices are business records and many judges will permit them to come into evidence but some will insist you have a person/witness testify concerning them to put them into evidence. Discovery can include request for documents, interrogatories and depositions. This is optional and should only be done if you need it as otherwise case will drag on for months.No need to respond to answer unless it includes a counterclaim.
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