Sunday, July 22, 2007
Small claims court needs reform
Did you know that a company cannot represent itself in an Ohio small claims court? An employee is free to go to small claims court and file any claim $3,000 or under against an employer, and the employer must hire an attorney to represent it at court. Even though a corporation is defined as a "person" under the law, and an individual can appear pro se, a company that tries to exercise the same right will be barred under the guise of the unauthorized practice of law. This rule needs to be fixed. Because the cost of defense often outweighs the cost of the claim, how is justice served if companies have little incentive to litigate? Often, however, companies want to challenge the claim, because at stake is the sanctity of a policy that the employer has spent time and money having drafted, implementing, and enforcing. Also, companies need to send the message that they will not roll over even for small claims brought by employees. So, what you are left with is a company that may not want to pay to fight the claim, and if they do pay to fight it, a pro se plaintiff that will be outmatched in court by having to face cross examination by a hired professional. This system is crying out for reform. Ohio law should be amended so that a company can appear in small claims court through a corporate officer and without an attorney. This amendment will allow the system to work as it is intended, so that small claims can actually be tried with small costs and small hassle.
Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 831-0042, ext. 140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.