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Summary Judgment May Not Be Used in Small Claims Cases
Description Supreme court of Oklahoma held that small claims cases may not use summary judgment or other legal motions that usually require the assistance of a lawyer. The purpose of the proceedings is for them to move quickly, without lawyers or the other legal trappings of normal court procedure.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Small Claims Court; Summary Judgment
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Patterson, a pest exterminator, did a termite inspection for Beall, a realtor, and billed her $105. She refused to pay because she said the inspection was to be free. She then billed him $115, contending she did a property appraisal for him. He complained about her to the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission. She complained about him to the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture. Neither entity did anything. He sued her for $4,500 in the small claims court for deceptive consumer practices for demanding payment for real estate services not performed; she countersued for the same amount. Before trial, Beall paid Patterson $105. The trial court allowed both parties to file summary judgment motions but found that Beall's conduct did not violate the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act. Patterson appealed.
Decision Vacated and remanded. Motions for summary judgment are inconsistent with the intent and purpose of the Small Claims Procedure Act-the efficient and prompt disposition of claims. Small claims are to be "people's courts" in which procedures are informal and lawyers are not needed. Summary judgment motions do not fall in that category. Patterson may well have a deceptive practices claim against Beall. Since summary judgment motions may not be used in small claims court, the court must review the issue of deceptive practice as Patterson originally requested.
Citation Patterson v. Beall, 2000 WL 1707795 (Cup. Ct., Ok., 2000)

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