What is a small claim?
This is a quicker, simpler, lawyer-less procedure in the Israeli courts for small claims. Any individual can sue anybody in this court as long as the sum of the claim is less than 32,700 sheqel (see http://elyon1.court.gov.il/heb/agrot/ktanot.htm).
How much will it cost me?
You will have to pay an official fee of 1% (rounded up to the nearest 5 sheqel) of the sum of the claim, but there is a minimum fee of 50 sheqel (see http://elyon1.court.gov.il/heb/agrot/ktanot.htm).
Who can take a claim to the Small Claims Court?
Only individuals. That is, anyone who is not a company (including a partnership or Amutah).
Who can be sued in the Small Claims Court?
Anyone, including the government, local government, a company, any business etc.
I am a tourist, can I sue an Israeli person or company in the small claims court in Israel?
Defendants in Israeli courts including the small claims court are normally an Israeli person or company but plaintiffs can be Israeli or foreign. If the plaintiff is not in Israel this creates logistical problems. An Israeli lawyer could help by drafting the statement of claim and lodging the claim in the small claims court. Anyone with a power of attorney (lawyer or layperson) could appear in court on behalf of the foreign plaintiff. But – and this is the crunch – testimony, the actual evidence, must be given in person and not through a proxy or attorney. I have wondered if a judge would allow testimony by video conference or such like. I doubt it, at least not without the permission of the defendant, who is not likely to give it! So a foreign plaintiff would have to come to Israel and be in court on the set day for the hearing of the evidence before a judge.
What is the maximum I can sue for in the Small Claims Court?
31,900 sheqel. Be careful this figure changes periodically. Note that if you have a claim of more than 32,000 sheqel it still may be worth your while suing in the Small Claims Court and limiting yourself to the maximum sum. So if you have a claim of say 40,000, take the case to the Small Claims Court, and sue for just 31,900 sheqel as you will get your money, quicker and more cheaply in this court.
Where is the Small Claims Court?
The Small Claims Court is part of most Shalom Courts.
Which court should I go to?
You should not go to your local court. You must sue the defendant in a court that has jurisdiction in the area where the defendant lives, or where the activity you are suing for (eg the transfer of goods) was or should have been. This gives you great lee way and as a rule keep clear of the courts in Tel Aviv (Haifa is second worse).
Do I need a lawyer?
The Small Claims Court was intended to be lawyer-less but I would strongly advice you to use a lawyer at least to draft the claim. Especially if your Hebrew is not 100%. You cannot take a lawyer to the court hearing (some judges are lenient about this for people with difficulties).
What is the procedure in small claims court?
Procedure is fairly informal here. The judge will always try and get the parties to compromise, to make an out of court settlement. Some judges are very persuasive (coercive) about this, so if you do not want a compromise (because the judge or the other side have made you an offer you do not think is acceptable) you will need to be quite strong minded.
But do things happen here like in other courts?
More or less yes. Each side will make an opening statement or answer questions put by the judge. The plaintiff will give evidence or call witnesses and the other side will have the right to cross-examine them. Then the defendant will do the same and the plaintiff will have the right to cross-examine. After the witnesses, each side will be asked to summarise their case orally.
So what should I do?
Get the form from your local court or from the web site. Fill it in. But leave the details blank. The full details of your case (the story of your claim) should be typed in Hebrew on a separate sheet. I think that it is very important to type (remember the judge may not have patience to read scribbles) and must be in Hebrew (this is Israel, Arabic would be good too). Take 3 copies of the form and the typed sheet back to the court and after you have paid the official fee you have a small claim. Now just wait for the defendant’s defence and a trial date.
Where can I get more information?
law in israel
שאול דיוויס, עו”ד