Unfortunately it is not uncommon in Israel that you purchase a faulty product from a store and the company refuses to exchange or provide a refund. Or perhaps, (do I dare suggest) a tradesman has done a bad job and left your house or car in a worse state than it was to start off with! Or in another scenario, a neighbor damaged your property and will not take responsibility…! In all of these cases, chances are that the culpable person or company is in no mood for mediation. You want justice to be served but it is not worth a full blown lawsuit. What should you do?
Enter: The small claims court!
The concept of the small claims court is to grant a fast and economical way of resolving disputes involving small sums of money. To date the jurisdiction of the small claims court is up to 31,200 NIS. A small claims court is located within each Magistrates Court (Beit Mishpat Shalom). Most parties represent themselves, and special permission is needed to be represented by lawyers, most commonly the court will not allow lawyers to appear.
If any of the above the scenarios rings a bell for you, but you are not confident enough to draft up lawsuits you may contact me email@example.com and I will draft the lawsuit for you. Alternatively, many courts have law students who help people in filling out forms etc, who may be able to assist. Forms can be downloaded from http://www.court.gov.il : on the left hand side go to the forms ( Tefasim- טפסים) section and you will see a heading tviyot ktanot (תביעות קטנותsmall claims), click this to get the forms that you need . Click on Ktav Teviya (כתב תביעה)- and the paper necessary for filing a claim download to your screen. Ensure that any evidence needed to support your claim is attached.
Once filed, the court will send a copy to the defendant and the defendant has 15 days to respond. The court will also set a hearing date. If the defendant does not file a response you may ask the court for a default judgment.
If the defendant files his defense, you will be faced with meeting him in court at the hearing date.
hat will you do now?
If your Hebrew is not very good, I suggest that you bring a friend with you to help you out if you get stuck. Make sure that s/he has seen all the papers prior to the hearing so s/he is familiar with the case, that s/he knows what words will be used, this will make it easier form him/her to translate quicker for you.
Be sure to bring all the necessary papers with you. I recommend preparing a spare set of documents, in case the Judge can not find a particular document in his file. The Judge will initially try to see if there is a basis upon which a compromise can be reached, however he cannot force either of the parties to agree to a compromise. The hearing is informal and usual rules of evidence do not apply. If the Judge asks you questions, answer them directly giving as much information as you can, do not make snide or aggressive comments – just answer the question
After hearing the parties, the Judge may make a final attempt to reach a compromise. If you feel that you are now on the losing side (you will know by the way the Judge talks) I recommend that you take up his offer of a suggested compromise.
Once the hearing has been concluded in most cases the Judge will write a decision and send it in the post at a later (or much later) date.
In the event that you loose your case you may apply to appeal the case. Of course on the other hand if you win the case and the defendant does not fulfill the terms of the judgment you my enforce it through hotza’a lapoel( the collection office).