If you intend to file a small claim in New Hampshire or have had a small claim filed against you, you will be introduced to the New Hampshire Court system’s Mediation Program. Mediation is not unique to small claim actions, as it is now available, and in some instances required, in every level of the New Hampshire Court system.
The purpose of mediation is obvious. If opposing parties submit their dispute to a judge, at least one party, if not both, will be disappointed when they receive the judge’s order. In addition to this uncertainty, often the judge’s decision is made after a long period of time and after much effort and expense by one or both of the parties. The mediation program in the New Hampshire Court system has proved very successful not only in greatly reducing the cases that end up being decided by a judge, but also by reducing the time, effort, expense and uncertainty of prosecuting a claim to the end of the process.
All small claims in New Hampshire are now required to be filed electronically. The Plaintiff will initiate the small claim electronically and the Defendant will be required to respond electronically. For people who don’t have access to the internet personally, there are computer terminals located at each Court for this very purpose. The Court does not create a physical file or any physical documents at all in this process. It’s all electronic.
After a small claim is electronically filed with the Circuit Court, District Division, and any counterclaim is filed as well, the Court will schedule a pre-trial hearing. Both parties must attend the pre-trial hearing. If either party fails to do so, they risk being found in default. At the pre-trial hearing, the judge will meet with the parties for each case and ask if they are willing to participate in mediation at that time. If the amount of the small claim is $5,000.00 or less, the parties will not be required to mediate if one or both parties does not want to do so. If the small claim is filed for over $5,000.00, mediation is mandatory.
Assuming mediation is agreed to or mandated, the Court will instruct the parties to meet with one or more mediators present at that session of Court. The parties and the mediator meet in conference rooms provided by the Court to try to resolve the case. If the case is resolved, a written agreement is prepared and filed with the Court for approval. If the mediation does not result in an agreement, the parties return to the courtroom and the judge will discuss the following steps in the small claim litigation process and usually will select a trial date.
All of Welts, White & Fontaine’s litigation attorneys have experience representing clients when mediation arises in any matter pending in the New Hampshire Court system. In addition, Welts, White & Fontaine has two (2) attorneys who have been trained and approved by the New Hampshire Court system to act as mediators for parties litigating cases in the Circuit Court, District Division and Superior Courts of New Hampshire. These attorneys/mediators are also available as mediators for parties who are involved in a dispute but have not yet filed suit against each other. Please contact Welts, White & Fontaine at (603) 883-0797 for more information if you require representation in a matter being litigated in the New Hampshire Court system or if you are involved in a private dispute and would like to attempt to resolve the matter through mediation without the necessity of a Court case.
Author: George H. Thompson
This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.