New York Attorney With Vending Experience Publishes Book on Winning Cases in State's Small Claims Courts.

OCEAN BEACH, NY -- A new book by attorney Richard Solomon is designed to help small businesses, notably vending and coffee service operators, to use an often-misunderstood arm of the state's judiciary system to deal with nonpayment of of bills, disappearance of or damage to equipment and other losses incurred at the hands of clients. It's titled "Winning
in the New York Small Claims Courts," and is published by Rescue Media, Inc. (Bayside, NY).

Solomon, who has represented hundreds of businesses including several operators who have become good friends, attended the recent National Automatic Merchandising Association National Expo. He told VT that, despite occasional initiatives by the state to make Small Claims Court more accessible to the general public, the system naturally tends to wall itself behind specialized jargon and detailed procedural requirements that can be intimidating to people outside the legal profession.

This is unfortunate, Solomon emphasized, because the whole point of having a Small Claims Court system is to provide a relatively fast, efficient way to resolve monetary disputes without requiring costly litigation and formal jury trial. He has encouraged and assisted his business clients in making use of it, and he has used it himself, with excellent results. These experiences have given him great respect for Small Claims Court, and he teaches a continuing education course on the subject at Long Island University in Glen Cove.

Solomon explained that, while the specifics - the upper limit on claims, for example - usually vary between one state and another, the overall procedure everywhere is similar, rooted in English common law. Although his book's detailed instructions, sample forms and hints on avoiding administrative delays relate directly to New York, the work provides an overview of the system that, with some local observation and inquiry, can be applied to small claims courts throughout the United States.

The upper limit on a "small" claim in New York State is $3,000 (smallclaimsbook.com note: the amount is now $5,000)(for example, $5,000 in Texas). So, while the system cannot recover really substantial debts, it offers a very good solution for coffee services that are owed money by customers (present or former), and vendors and OCS operators whose equipment vanished when a client when a client moved out of the area. This is just what is designed to do, Solomon emphasized.

And, for that reason, small business owners usually will find their interests better served by preparing the paperwork themselves and making their claims in person, rather than retaining legal counsel for the purpose. The Small Claims Court system inclines to favor individuals serious about recovering a loss, and thus willing to take the time to work through the procedure.

It is that procedure that the book has been written to explain. Solomon describes the differences between the provisions made for commercial and for individual claims, which differ chiefly in the document initially prepared to make the claim. He walks readers through the sequence of events that begins with obtaining the appropriate form from the clerk and (when all goes well) ends with collecting the judgment.

Anyone ready to file a claim should ask the clerk for a copy of the court rules, Solomon advised. These are available to the public at no charge, and it is very worth while for a claimant to read through them carefully. Seemingly trivial errors or omissions can result in a great deal of duplicate effort and lost time - which, again, is what the book has been written to help readers avoid. A copy of New York State Small Claims Court rules is included in the work's "Self-Help Kit."

Also included are case histories, suggestions about what to do and what not to do, definitions of many legal terms, and how to collect a judgment when the case is won.

More information is available online at www.smallclaimsbook.com. The work may be purchased at the website, or order by calling [1-800-THE BOOK].

Source: Vending Times, Volume 43, No. 12, December 2003, Pages 30 and 117