What are Alabama Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?
Alabama small claims and class action lawsuits are civil cases that involve disputes between individuals and corporate entities. Small claims cases are typically single party suits; a petitioner brings a legal claim against a defendant. The defendant may be another individual, an organization, or a corporate entity. Class action lawsuits, on the other hand, are not single-party suits. A class includes multiple people who have similar legal claims against the same defendant. One or more people represent the class in the lawsuit. The District Court in Alabama handles civil cases, and the Small Claims Division hears cases that involve up to $6,000. To file a small claims case or join a class action in Alabama, a person must be at least 19 years old or legally emancipated.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Alabama?
In a class action lawsuit, a group of individuals who have similar legal claims against the same defendant comes together to file legal claims against the defendant. Typically, the defendant is a corporation or another entity. For example, persons who receive faulty products from the same manufacturer may form a class action lawsuit to seek compensation from the manufacturer. One or more persons represent the class in a suit. In many cases, class action lawsuits are the best way to get compensation from an organization; because the class contains a large group, organizations may respond faster than single-party suits. For Alabama courts to certify a class, it must be impossible or impractical for all the class members to file individual lawsuits.
How do I File a Claim in an Alabama Small Claims Court?
Alabama small claims courts hear cases that involve $6000 or less. To file a small claim, interested parties may prepare a complaint or a Statement of Claim. Petitioning parties may find the form online or at the District Court Clerk’s office. The plaintiff must file the claim in the county where the defendant lives or where the claim happened. The Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts provides other small claims forms; however, each small claims court may have additional form requirements. Thus, the plaintiff must contact the appropriate Court Clerk to identify the court’s requirements.
Once the plaintiff completes the Statement of Claim, the plaintiff may file the statement with the appropriate District Court clerk and pay the filing fees. Persons who cannot afford to pay filing fees may file an affidavit of substantial hardship, which allows the judge to delay fee payment until the case resolves.
After filing the complaint, the court serves the defendant a copy of the complaint, and the defendant must respond within 14 days. If the defendant does not respond in the stipulated time, the plaintiff may petition the court for a default judgment against the defendant. If the defendant responds, the court sets a trial date and notify the case parties.
Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?
Alabama small claims courts are informal and simple; case parties may be self-represented in small claims cases and do not need to hire a small claims lawyer. However, case parties may hire lawyers for representation in small claims cases. Self-represented case parties, also known as Pro Se litigants, may seek advice from small claims lawyers on the validity of a claim and the best defense to put forward.
How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Alabama?
A class action lawsuit involves a group of individuals filing a legal claim as one class against the same defendant. The class selects representatives to file a claim on behalf of the class. The representatives may be one or more persons. According to state laws, the prerequisites for a class action lawsuit in Alabama include:
- The class must be filled with so many people that individual lawsuits would be impracticable.
- The class must have a common fact or question of law.
- The representatives must make the same claims as the class
- The representatives must adequately protect the class’s interests.
Additionally, if individual lawsuits would create a risk of inconsistent judgments to class members, if the defendant’s actions do not generally apply to the class, or if the court finds that the joint claim of the class supersedes individual claims, the court may certify the class. After the class certification, the court notifies all class members of the certification and the date by which any member may opt out of the class. The court’s notice will also include the fact that the court’s judgment applies to all class members and that class members may enter an appearance.
If there the class action lawsuit is to be dismissed or compromised, the court will notify all class members. The court will also inform the members of the court’s judgment after the trial.
Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?
Class actions and single-party suits are applicable under different circumstances. If it would be cost-effective to join a class in filing a claim or bring a quicker or more favorable response from the defendant, a class action may be the better option. Typically, small claims suits do not cost as much as regular lawsuits; attorneys may not charge more than the recovery amount. Additionally, plaintiffs may file the case as Pro Se litigants. On the other hand, there are no upfront fees in class action lawsuits; the attorneys fees are part of the claim that the defendant owes.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the document or person involved
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.
What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Alabama?
Types of cases in an Alabama small claims court include:
- Property damage, including damaged clothes during a fight
- Personal injury
- Eviction and other landlord/tenant claims
- Loan repayment
- Contract breach
- Other claims that do not exceed $6000 in value