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I recently lost a case as the plaintiff in a small claims case

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in Fresno County Superior Court...
I recently lost a case as the plaintiff in a small claims case in Fresno County Superior Court. I can not appeal the case but can request a correction of judgment in the case for the judge not applying the correct law to determine judgment. I feel this judge did a horrible job in officiating the case. The following are errors I feel were made incorrectly or unfairly.

1) I was never offered the ability to continue with the mediation process which the case was in and set for a continuance while both parties prepared further for trial.
2) Judge failed to look closely at all of the evidence submitted by the plaintiff (which was a lot) and did not offer to take the case under advisement to allow for proper examination of the evidence.
3) Judge listened to statements made by the defense and witness for the defense without requiring any documentation to verify or substantiate their statements.
4) Judge turned a personal suit between parties into a corporate suit without examining corporate bylaws.
5) Judge entered several issues between both parties that were non related to the case into question what so ever.

I don't not feel this is a matter of me just being sore looser. In my opinion as well as others in the court felt this was a gross misuse of the legal process. Based off of legal advise from this sight I was advised that I had a very winnable case and was well prepared with my evidence. I need to know specifically what else is required for some advise on this matter or if there is any recourse I have for myself.

Thank You
Submitted: 4 years ago.Category: Legal
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Answered in 13 minutes by:
7/7/2013
Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Attorney replied 4 years ago
CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10,244
Experience: Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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William B. Esq. :

Dear Customer, thank you for choosing Just Answer. I would like to assist you with your legal matter today, but I do need to understand why you believe you cannot appeal your decision as opposed to asking for a correction in law (generally in a case such as the one you describe, the proper remedy is to appeal the small claims judgment).


http://www.courts.ca.gov/1072.htm


 

Customer:

In California Small Claims rules state the only time a plaintiff cannot appeal a case unless the defendant files a counter suit to the plaintiffs original suit. In my case the defendant won so my only recourse is to request for a judgment cancel the judgment because the court applied the wrong law in the case.

William B. Esq. :

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX under the assumption you had a judgment for damages entered against you. Your recourse is described in a good summary by the Department of Consumer Affairs below:


A plaintiff or defendant also has the right to invite but not require the small claims court to re-examine its decision. This is accomplished by filing with the small claims court a Request to Correct or Cancel Judgment and Answer (Form SC-108). While the defendant is the only party with a right to file an appeal, either party, whether plaintiff or defendant, may request the small claims court to correct "a clerical error in the judgment" or vacate a judgment and re-hear the dispute "on the grounds of an incorrect or erroneous legal basis for the decision." The request should describe the asserted error both clearly and persuasively.


The option to register such a request gives both parties to a small claims court action a limited opportunity to have the small claims court reconsider an allegedly erroneous decision, although not the right to another hearing unless the small claims court considers it necessary to re-hear the case. Such a request must be filed no later than 30 days after the small claims clerk mails or delivers the Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form SC-130) to the parties (but the court retains its inherent power to correct an error).

Customer:

Yes I understand that. I don't want to file the request if they are just going to throw it out. I no longer have a whole bunch of confidence in the whole process anymore. That's why I provided my list of (5) things that happened to see from a legal stand point if all or any of them would justify or help to get this judgment thrown out so a new trial can start with obviously a more competent judge.

William B. Esq. :

Okay, let me run through them briefly (I believe you understand that I cannot give you a specific legal opinion, but I will give you my best evaluation as a general matter).

Customer:

Yes I understand....

William B. Esq. :

(1) There is no obligation for the court to allow the alternative dispute resolution process to continue. This is not a basis to reverse a trial court judgment.

William B. Esq. :

(2) I do not know the full circumstances as to why certain evidence was not examined. The legal standard is whether or not evidence was properly admitted or rejected as evidence. If you submit evidence that is proper and the court rejects it, that would be a basis for the court to reverse its judgment (it may still find that the evidence was not enough to change the judgment, but it is a basis for reversal), merely not examining evidence is usually not enough to create a reversal from a legal standpoint.

William B. Esq. :

(3) Testimony by parties acts as evidence so long as the testimony is not hearsay. If the testimony is firsthand, the testimony does not necessarily require documentary evidence. This is not always the case, and perhaps allowing unsupported testimony will form the basis for a reversed judgment.

William B. Esq. :

(4) The issue of a corporate entity being involved in the case does not necessarily require that the corporate bylaws be examined. HOWEVER, if the form of the corporation is at issue, meaning who is responsible for making decisions or allowed to do certain things, the corporate structure and governance may become an issue and may form a basis for reversal. But remember, it must be a legal basis not just an issue of fact.

William B. Esq. :

(5) Additional non-related issues are likely not grounds to affect the case. Outside evidence or issues that are brought before the court can be grounds for a reversal in judgment only when the evidence is inadmissible and has a material affect on the judgment. If this applies to your case, that would be the basis for a reversal.

William B. Esq. :

These motions are tough to win, but not impossible. The focus must be on an error in law, meaning the court admitted evidence it should not have, the law the court applied was wrong (the judge used the wrong standard in applying it to your case - this may happen if the other party is arguing the wrong case or wrong statute and the court mistakenly uses that law in its decision).

Customer:

Thank you for your answers but I'm a little confused as to what your answers 4 & 5 mean...

Customer:

4) explain legal basis not just an issue of fact?

Customer:

5)What would make evidence inadmissible?

William B. Esq. :

(4) In this type of motion, the Court is not examining facts, it is examining the application of the law. This means that if the question is whether or not the CEO entered into the contract on behalf of the company, the Court will not question whether or not the facts show that he actually did, but rather, the Court will be interested in whether or not the CEO is entitled to do this legally (under corporate law and the operative corporate documents). This is a question of law as opposed to a question of fact, no evidence will be examined.

William B. Esq. :

(5) Only some evidence is admissible in court, to be admissible, the evidence must have what is called "authentication" meaning credible evidence that the statements, facts, documents, or physical evidence is truthful. Without this authentication, the evidence is inadmissible. An admissible letter has testimony by the recipient, the writer, or someone who can recognize the handwriting (for example). An inadmissible document is one that is offered as evidence without any testimony or foundation for its admission. The court can only consider admissible evidence.

William B. Esq. :

I hope that my answer was of assistance to you. My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you for your business!

Customer:

Ok regarding ...... I am the CEO of the corporation and was in the process of getting a vehicle that was personally owned by both the defendant and myself. The title was personally in both of our names but the corporation had made 44 of the 60 payments until it was struggling to stay current to due a drop off in business. I as the CEO was using the vehicle for personal use as well as for business. The corporation has depreciated the vehicle every year since 2008. The defendant did not step in to help with making any of the payments until after the vehicle was repposed. I was in negotiations with the lender to get the loan reinstated when the defendant beat to the punch by 1 hour and doing it herself and reclaiming the vehicle and reinstating the loan for the both of us personally. As it turned out the defendant had her father step in and personally pay to get the loan current without my knowledge and 5 days later again the father stepped in and directly paid the loan off completely all without my knowledge. The bank released the title to the defendants address which read as follows "my name" OR "defendants name" as the vehicles registered owners OR not AND. The defendant then sold the vehicle to her father for way under Kelly Bluebook value in which the father then posted the vehicle for sale at full Kelly Bluebook value which was about $10K more then what he paid directly to the bank on our loan. I provided all of the documentation including photos and Carfax vehicle history report to substantiate what happened. The defense and her father argued that there were major problems with the vehicle devaluing it by $10K and her father sold it for far less the market value. I asked the judge for them to then prove all of this such as written letters form automotive professionals and an actual bill of sale stating how much her father sold the vehicle for and he never asked for the verified poof, just took them on their word and decided with judgment for the defendant.

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Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Attorney replied 4 years ago
Dear Customer,

While I believe that there may have been a miscarriage of justice (I was not in the courtroom, and I do know that this does happen, so I will not discount your statement), I will guess that perhaps there was a problem with what is known as "shifting the standard of proof".

This means that instead of showing the lowball sale that they did was wrong, you were asking the defendants to prove that it was proper. The defendants do not have a duty to prove the case, they only have to disprove yours (and only be a little bit "the preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof).

The basis to make your motion to change the judgment is to show the Court misapplied the law (NOT that the other party was in the wrong), if you can show that the court was wrong in allowing their evidence in (meaning the court should not have allowed them to say what they said - even if it was wrong), you may have a shot. But again, these are tough motions, and the court will rely on the facts as it found it the first time, the only thing it is going to consider is a change in the way it looks at the law.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

The judge did say that he felt neither party was attempting to do anything wrong but he still found in judgment for the defendant. However not that it means much the defendant was totally trying to rip me off and anyone who knows the defendant and her family would completely agree this was a total scam to rip me off.

Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Attorney replied 4 years ago
Unfortunately, this type of case does not make for a strong motion for reconsideration. Again, I do not know the facts of your case and cannot help you make that final determination, but when the matter is one based on both principles and the intangible or inadmissible (other individual's impressions of her character) you will not be able to succeed on this motion.
I wish I had something more favorable to report in support of your position, but I want to give you as succinct and accurate a statement as I can so that you can plan your next steps accordingly.
I will be happy to continue to answer any follow up questions you may have.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

REVISED POST.....I understand nor was I implying I have a leg to stand on with reference to the moral character of the defendant.

 

I understand this is all about whether or not the correct usage of the law was applied here.

 

If I am to understand you correctly my only shot is to prove that "shifting the standard of proof" is what the happened incorrectly in the case.

 

The judge should have made a judgment based on the "Clear and Convincing Evidence" (ie; banking statements, DMV vehicle title, bill of sale to father, letters between finance company, Kelly Bluebook and Carfax report, etc.) that was submitted by both parties and should not have allowed any inadmissible evidence (ie: defendant/witness erroneous verbal statements that could not be verified as accurate or true but rather personal opinion) thus incorrectly making a judgment based on the "Preponderance of Evidence" which is a lessor level of information for which to make a ruling by.

 

I think that's what you are suggesting I go for with my request to the court.

 

Please advise.....

Lawyer: CalAttorney2, Attorney replied 4 years ago
I apologize for the delay.

I believe I may not have stated myself properly, I think that one of the reasons you may have lost is that your case relied on the improper shift of the burden of proof onto the defendant. What I mean by this is that you would have to prove the sales price and circumstances were a break in the other party's duty to the corporation (fiduciary duty to the corporation and insider dealing issues), whereas the defendant has no obligation to show that the sale was worth that amount (they only need to show it was more likely than not a good business decision for the corporation if you are able to meet your burden of proof first). The nuances here are somewhat convoluted and usually are not at issue in small claims cases, but they are still valid issues. From your description, this shift actually goes against your case. But remember, again, I was not there and this is a legal analysis that is very fact specific and is dependent on details not just a general representation of the trial.

Regarding the admission of evidence, the issues you raise there have a more sturdy basis. If the Court improperly admitted testimony by these parties, you can request that the court reconsider its opinion. Remember, it is not whether or not the testimony was false, only whether or not the testimony is inadmissible. For instance, a witness can lie and say that "I entered into a contract with Joe for ..." this will be an admissible statement assuming the contract is at issue. However, another witness cannot testify as follows: "Joe told me that he entered into a contract for ..." this is a statement of hearsay and is inadmissible and should not be considered by the Court.

The rules of evidence are somewhat complex, but you can work through the evidence code to find what is hearsay and what is not (basic evidence takes an entire semester at law school, and is taught in subsequent classes for the entire law school career).

In simplified form, the documents you identify above are likely admissible under various theories of evidence. The testimony must come from the witness' personal knowledge, it cannot be something they heard from someone else.

If the Court was allowing a great deal of evidence, or key evidence, that was not in the party's direct personal knowledge (something they knew or discovered without someone else telling them), that would create a ground for a revised judgment.
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