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What are New Jersey Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?

Class action suits in New Jersey are a form of aggregate litigation. When several individuals suffer the same civil wrong, these plaintiffs may seek relief from the judiciary. The outcome of the suit affects every class member. Small claims refer to single litigation, where an individual seeks relief for an injury worth up to $5,000. The court provides information on initiating and processing both types of civil litigations, and court records on these cases are available to interested persons. 

What is a Class Action Lawsuit in New Jersey?

Per N. J. Ct. R. 4:32, a case qualifies as a class-action suit in New Jersey if:

  • Joinder of all members is impracticable, i.e., the court cannot examine the testimony of every plaintiff;
  • the class members file the suit based on common questions or fact of law;
  • the class members have common claims or defenses; and,
  • the class representative is fair and capable of adequate protection of the members’ interests.

How do I File a Claim in a New Jersey Small Claims Court?

New Jersey judiciary provides systematic instructions for filing small claims in the state. Generally, small claims case involves a suit seeking damages for civil injury worth up to $5000. A small claims case begins viz:

  • Filing the forms: Filing begins at the office of the clerk of Superior Court in the county where the defendant/company resides. The aggrieved party must request and complete a complaint and a civil case information statement (CIS). The plaintiff must also submit any additional forms required of him/her and pay the applicable filing fees.
  • Service of Process: The plaintiff must serve the defendant with a summons as well as a copy of the Complaint, CIS, and Track Assignment Notice (TAN) within ten (10) days of filing the complaint. The plaintiff may also contact the sheriff’s office to serve the defendant with the court documents. Upon receipt, the defendant must file an answer within 35 days after service.
  • Discovery: The case proceeds to discovery after the plaintiff completes the service of process, and the defendant responds with an answer. At this stage, the litigants participate in the exchange of information about the case. The period of discovery depends on the TAN.
  • Mediation: A court-ordered mediation is an alternative means for dispute resolution. Here, a third unbiased party works with the litigants to arrive at a mutually-benefiting agreement. In some cases, the court may order arbitration. Unlike mediation, in arbitration, the arbiter makes a recommendation after listening to the litigant’s arguments. In either method, the parties elect to accept or reject the settlement agreement. The case proceeds to trial when mediation fails.
  • Trial: The court schedules the case for a bench trial or jury trial, depending on the TAN. The court hearing follows the New Jersey Rule of Civil Procedure. The litigants use oral arguments, evidence, and witnesses to corroborate their position. The final adjudication of complaints rests with the judge or jury. Nevertheless, the litigants have the option of appealing a court decision within 45 days.

Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?

No. Hiring a lawyer is the personal decision of the litigant. An experienced small claims lawyer is a valuable asset in getting favorable judgment or settlement in a small claims case. A rule of thumb is to hire a lawyer if the other party hires one. Nevertheless, a person armed with the right information, resources, and time can accomplish the same objectives. The New Jersey judiciary offer self-help resources for pro se litigants, and counties typically provide legal services and aid to residents who qualify.

How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in New Jersey?

Before a class action suit can begin in New Jersey, several litigants must aggregate and attest to a common complaint through a class representative. Then, the court must certify the action, which must be maintainable under court rules. Generally, certification is a preliminary hearing where the court considers the validity of the litigation as a class action. A class-action suit is maintainable if it passes the prerequisites in N. J. Ct. R. 4:32(b).

The court rules also require that the court appoint a class counsel. The class attorney and the class representative are responsible for taking subsequent legal actions and negotiating a settlement with the defendant.

Meanwhile, class action suits tend to take longer than single party suits, although the cost of litigation reduces comparatively. The length of time it takes to process a class action suit depends on several factors such as the time it takes to complete the notice, certification, deposition, and discovery.  

Common examples of class action suits in New Jersey involve:

  • Antitrust
  • Consumer protection
  • Consumer fraud
  • Labor and compensation disputes
  • Shareholder actions

Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?

Yes. Class action suits offer several advantages over single party suits. Apart from saving the judiciary time and resources, class action suits provide finality and certainty of outcome to the parties involved. Furthermore, class action suits level the justice field for better-funded corporations compared with individuals seeking vindication of small diffuse claims. Likewise, there is a higher chance that an aggregate of individuals with the same injury will receive a favorable ruling based on the same complaint. Most importantly, society operates on trust in the fairness of American public institutions like the judiciary. Single party suits result in inconsistent rulings, which raise concerns about the fairness of the legal system.

What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in New Jersey?

Some of the common small claims cases in New Jersey involve:

  • Debt and loan repayment
  • Personal injury and damage to personal property
  • Return of tenant security deposit
  • Return of down payment
  • Breach of contract

Court records of small claims and class action suits are available to interested persons upon request. To obtain these records, visit the office of the clerk of the Superior county in person. The requester must provide the necessary information to aid administrative staff in the retrieval of court records. Requesters may also use the remote public access portal to obtain court records of interest. 

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved 

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary. 

  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!