Small claims court is billed as a simple, speedy and informal means of resolving disputes, but a victory there can prove meaningless. Complaints focus on the difficulties plaintiffs face in collecting payments following a judgment in their favor. The Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine, conducted an informal survey of the hundreds of people each year who received favorable judgments in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. The results: roughly two-thirds never collected their money.
Because Maine’s judicial system doesn’t track small claims cases and outcomes, there’s no measure of how well the system is working. But clerks at the region’s district courts estimate that people who brought small claims cases and won ultimately collected their money no more than one-third of the time.