Please read the entirety of this page to fully understand
We want you to understand that by filing pro se, FairClaims cannot file on your behalf this is why we do our best to explain the process, expectations and hurdles for you to handle this to the best of your ability.
Some possible court responses and how to handle them:
- The courts are saying this is not legitimate
Arbitration is a legitimate--and very common--way to resolve disputes outside of court. It is less common as an alternative to small-claims court because there are very few affordable arbitration companies--that is why we created FairClaims! Because it is less common for smaller disputes where the parties don’t have lawyers, the court clerks and self-help court centers may not be familiar with the confirmation process.
That is why we always suggest asking to speak to a manager, supervisor or even asking for someone at the court who has some arbitration knowledge, to help you navigate the confirmation process.
- “This isn’t one of our case numbers”
Oftentimes clerks look at the Award and see a case number thinking it means it went through the court system. The dispute code on the award is for FairClaims internal purposes only. This is not a case number, you will receive one of those when you file the paperwork asking for your award to be confirmed by the court.
Some court systems have their own arbitration process that they can refer litigants to. That is different from FairClaims. FairClaims is a private, contractual arbitration process; it is not affiliated with the court system. Sometimes a clerk may be confused about this and say that you failed to follow certain rules regarding the arbitration process--but those rules may only apply to the court’s own arbitration process.
- “You need to file for recognition of a foreign judgment”
If you got a court judgment against someone in one state, but you needed to enforce it in a different state, you would need to get your “foreign” judgment (aka, a judgment from a different state) recognized by the state court in the state where you’re looking to enforce it. Sometimes this is what the clerk will think you’re trying to do. They may say that your Award (which they think is a foreign judgment) must have a state seal on it.
You will need to explain to the clerk that you are not seeking recognition of a foreign judgment. Your Award was issued by a private arbitration company, not a court. That is why it doesn’t have a state seal on it. What you need to do is essentially “convert” your award into a judgment through the confirmation process.
- “This says California, they have different rules”
All FairClaims arbitrations are deemed to take place in Los Angeles, California, even though the parties and the arbitrator may be located somewhere else. Because FairClaims is located in Los Angeles and the arbitrations are deemed to take place in Los Angeles, we follow California’s laws regarding how to conduct the arbitration. This also means that the Los Angeles Superior Court will always have jurisdiction to enforce a FairClaims arbitration award.
Even though the FairClaims arbitration “happened” in California, the award can still be enforced in another state--as long as the state court you go to has jurisdiction over the person whom the award is against.
- “You must file this as a new Small Claims case”
The process of getting an arbitration award confirmed by a court is different from going through the regular small-claims-court process. You do not have to prove your case again, rather the judge just needs to review the arbitration process and award to make sure it is legitimate. You are not re-litigating the facts of the underlying dispute.
That said, in order to file your petition to confirm the arbitration award, you may need to open a court case simply to get a case number assigned to your petition. You can ask the clerk to clarify if that is what they mean by “filing a new case.”
- “We will not accept these forms but also cannot tell you what you can file in place of them”
This is one of the most frustrating things about going to court pro se (without an attorney). It may feel like the blind leading the blind, as you try to explain to the clerk why they are wrong. You will have to be persistent and advocate for yourself. If you’re still not getting anywhere, and if you can’t afford a private attorney, see if there is a court self-help center or legal aid office in your town that might be able to provide some additional assistance. The local law library is another resource to explore.
- The most important thing is for the court to understand that this was done through private Arbitration and not court sponsored Arbitration. It has already been adjudicated on and therefore you should not be filing a whole new claim. Your goal is to get this filed to get in the hands of a judge to “confirm” it to make it a judgment.
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As a reminder, FairClaims is not acting as a legal representative. All communications are for informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.