Why One Small Claims Case Won’t Change the Way AT&T Does Business

Cnet has a good article discussing Matt Spaccarelli’s recent victory against AT&T.  It notes that AT&T forced him to go to small claims court specifically because the contract signed by him prohibited the ability of a class action lawsuit.  The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 to uphold a company’s right to include a clause in contracts prohibiting subscribers from suing the company as part of a class action.

At this point, Mr. Spaccarelli’s only two options were an arbitration program, funded entirely by AT&T, or file in small claims court.  CNET’s article notes that many consumer advocates believe that allowing wireless carriers to completely opt out of class action lawsuits is unfair as it will lead to different outcomes in cases which involve essentially the same facts.  Very interesting.

LA Times Publishes Article With Tips for Small Claims Court

In the wake of the win by an LA County litigant against Honda regarding miles per gallon advertising claims, the LA Times had an article with a variety of tips for small claims litigants.  Nothing new or earth shattering.  The article pointed out that many counties offer small claims advisors.  It discussed the limits of small claims court and other general questions.

AT&T Reverses Course, Decides not to Appeal Small Claims Court Case

In a sudden change of heart, AT&T has decided that it will not be appealing its loss in Ventura County Small Claims Court several weeks ago.  Instead, it has decided to pay Matt Spaccarelli’s damages ($850 + $85 in court costs).  This is a big change from AT&T’s prior position when it sought to appeal the decision and to muzzle Mr. Spaccarelli’s attempts to assist others in his position.  No word yet on whether AT&T will terminate his cell phone service.

Mr. Spaccarelli has created a website to assist other AT&T customers in his position.  Mr. Spaccarelli’s website lists the documents he used in his case.  In fact, Mr. Spaccarelli is already helping his brother who is similarly situated.

Why did Mr. Spaccarelli win?  Because he went in prepared.  He had a statement of the case prepared that he read to the judge and he was able to explain his case in a simple and straightforward fashion (even with something as complex as data throttling on cellular networks regulated by the FCC).  Kudos to Mr. Spaccarelli.  We hope this inspires other CASmallClaims.com readers with their own cases.

Civic owner sues Honda and wins almost $10k

A few weeks ago, Heather Peters prevailed in a small claims court case against Honda.  Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan awarded Peters $9,867.19 in damages (just under the new $10k threshold) (and note it was a commissioner, not a judge who made the decision).

In her case, Peters asserted Honda’s advertising misled her into believing her hybrid could achieve as much as 50 miles per gallon.

Honda, of course, is appealing the ruling.  They called it a “radical and unprecedented departure from California and federal law.”  We believe Honda’s comments are disrespectful and ignorant of the class action lawsuit against Honda on the very same issue.

In fact, Heather Peters had to opt out of the class action lawsuit in order to allow her case to move forward.  The advantage to this is that Heather was able to achieve far more than what she would obtain from a class action settlement.

AT&T seeks quiet settlement with small claims Victor

Here is an update for an earlier story we had regarding a small claims litigant who sued AT&T for throttling his data while on an unlimited service plan.

It appears that AT&T is currently in talks to try and settle the case (which is odd, because they had no intent of doing so prior to the trial).  The law firm retained by AT&T has even threatened to cancel Matthew Spaccarelli’s cell phone service if he doesn’t sit down to talk.

AT&T has also stated they are appealing the judge’s decision.

While Mr. Spaccarelli admits he tethered the phone to his computer, he still believes AT&T went too far with the tethering and essentially rendered his phone unusable without any warning.

While we always encourage settlement before trial, it appears AT&T is now attempting to bully this small claims court winner into settling the case.  We think AT&T should pay their money and be quiet.  Asking Mr. Spaccarelli to be quiet is only going to make the problem worse.

Here’s a fun clip of Mr. Spaccarelli asking AT&T for his money:

We wish him the best of luck as this case continues to unfold.

Man wins $850 from AT&T in Small Claims Court

Matt Spaccarelli sued AT&T in Ventura County Small Claims Court and won!  Matt’s argument was that AT&T was throttling his cellphone’s unlimited data plan to a speed that made it unusuable.  As you know, AT&T would not be allowed an attorney, so they set an area representative.

The judge came up with the $850 dollar figure by estimating the cost for unlimited data at $85 (between the $100 Matt asked for and $65 the AT&T representative wanted) and multiplied it by the number of months remaining on the contract (arriving at $850).

Matt said he was throttled because he was in the top 5% of data users.  Matt uses his smartphone to project Netflix onto a screen so that he can watch at night.

Here is Matt on Fox News explaining his case:

After his win, Matt helped his brother file a case against AT&T, as his brother was also a victim of this throttling.  This time the case was filed in Los Angeles County Small Claims Court.

Again, here a casmallclaims.com, we love to see people using small claims court and applying it to new situations, like this.  Generally, when we hear cell phone contract disputes, we are used to hearing the user getting nickel and dimed or surprised by the monthly bill when it comes.

An AT&T representative said it is currently evaluating whether to file an appeal.

California small claims court limit raised to $10,000

On July 8, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 221 into law.  As of January 1, 2012, small claims litigants can now recover $10,000 from the previous limit of $7,500.  There are two caveats to this increase: 1.) for claims of bodily injury from a car accident against a defendant if the defendant is insured and the policy contains a duty to defend and 2.) the limit remains $5,000 for suits brought by corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and other corporate entities.

An individual still cannot file more than two small claims actions that exceed $2,500 in any year.

SB221 was authored by the same senator who authored SB422 in 2005 which increased the limit from $5,000 to $7500.

This will allow more people to resolve their cases without the expense of hiring an attorney to recover money.  This website has more information on small claims court cases in California.

Small Claims Court Rules Against Police in $5k Ruling

Kitchener Small Claims Court

We often think of small claims cases as involving money owed from one person to another because of a contract, rent, or something else.  But what is great and unique about small claims court cases across the states, and even in Canada, are that you can sue even for actions not on contract, called tort.

For example, in Kitchener, Ontario, a judge ordered police to pay a family $5,000 for damages in banning a family from their home while police executed a “wrongful search and seizure” of their home.  The family was left without food, clothes, money, and identification.  The family had to spend the entire weekend with neighbors because the police had their home cordoned off.  It took the police another three days after the weekend in order to obtain a legal search warrant.

As expected, the police are appealing the verdict, saying the family should only be entitled to $2,000 in compensation.

Check out the article for more information.  We will post what happens to the appeal on our site as soon as we hear.

Romney Endorses Small Claims Court

Mitt Romney approves Small Claims Court

Here at CASmallClaims.com, we don’t generally get involved in politics, unless they effect small claims court laws throughout the states.  We did think this little exchange was worth noting for our readers:

ROMNEY: That might be something to go down to their office — big office in Boston — go sit in their front lobby and say ‘I’m gonna sit here until you sit down with me and look at these documents.”

PYRA: Occupy Bank of America?

ROMNEY: “Yeah, exactly. Yeah. If you are in the right, and you’ve got the documents to prove it, I’d go after them. The other thing you can do is file a suit against them.

PYRA: I can’t afford a lawyer, so –

ROMNEY: Ah, just file it in small claims court. Just say that they’ve been harassing you. If you’ve been making your payments, and you’ve got your documents, then you can show that, I’d go to small claims court and say these guys have been harassing me.

Quite often in situations like this, and you are in the right, it may be necessary to take a company or person to small claims court.  Before you jump to that, we recommend writing a demand letter first.  One tip people commonly forget is including a date by which you expect  response or some other action from the party.  Make sure it’s reasonable time for action, otherwise a court will not think you are being fair to the other party.

For more information, check out the original news article.

Small Claims Court Arrest


In an earlier post, we discussed briefly your demeanor in a small claims court case.  Regardless of what state you are in, you will impress the judge, the court, and the rest of the courtroom if you are prepared and polite.  Do NOT watch Judge Judy, the People’s Court, or any other show expecting to pick up tips.  Interrupting the judge, the opposing party, or anyone else will do nothing but frustrate the judge and make it all the more difficult for you to win your case.

We need look no further than 46-year-old man in Milwaukee County courthouse who was arrested after the commissioner dismissed his case (remember, a judge may not decide your case, it could be a commissioner or a judge pro tem).  Courtroom officials noted the man became combative, yelling profanities, and disrupting the hearings in the gallery.  He even continued resisting once a deputy began to make the arrest, headbutting the initial deputy.  This is a quick trip to jail (Milawaukee County Correctional Facility to be exact) and to lose your case.

By far you will make a better impression by being punctual, prepared, and polite.  This applies to everyone in the courthouse from the security personnel who screen you as you enter the facility, to the employees in the clerk’s office, to the court clerk and bailiff in the courtroom.  You show respect to the judge and the judicial procedure by treating these people with professionalism.  The court will treat you with respect and will require the opposing party to treat you with respect as well.

Visit the local news affiliate for more information on the Milwaukee County Small Claims Court incident.