I am a defendant, I lost a small claim trial.
An appeal of a small claims verdict could easily cost you more than paying the Judgment. Statistically most appeals fail and appellate practice is very specialized. Quite frankly, depending on the amount and your overall financial situation, filing for bankruptcy might be more cost effective. Do not let geographic restrictions get in the way of retaining the best attorney. Pick the best attorney you can find and remember one rule: a good attorney is generally never cheap, and a cheap attorney is generally never good so don't choose based on price.
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If you take an appeal and the plaintiff below does not participate, you might still lose if the court reviews the lower court's holding and agrees with the lower court.
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In my state appeals from small claims court are heard de novo in District Court, meaning that the decision from small claims court never happened and is given no weight whatsoever. That is not the case in all states so you should consult with a local attorney who practices in small claims court to see what the law and procedure is in your state. If you take the appeal to a higher court whether district Court or to the court of appeals, you should expect the case to get expensive quickly. It may make more sense to consult with a bankruptcy attorney at if it is more practical to go ahead and file bankruptcy.
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