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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

6 Lessons for Success in Small-Claims Court

By Jane Bennett Clark





Watching enough episodes of the People's Court may help. But mastering these strategies will likely get you further.

Save for future reference


It's well into a session at small-claims court in Silver Spring, Md., and the testimony--a shaggy-dog story involving rent, refunds, roommates and the inevitable oral agreement--has reached the topic of a stolen TV. The plaintiff admits to taking the TV as recompense for unrefunded rent money he insists he's owed. The judge, reviewing the claim, responds incredulously, "On top of the refund, you want to be repaid for storing the TV you stole?"

Oh, it's better than Judge Judy. In small-claims court, you'll witness enough human drama to provide the script for a long-running reality-TV series. But entertainment isn't all this free show has to offer. You'll also get pointers on how to win a case against your dry cleaner, your brother-in-law or your best friend over your small--but righteous--claim. Here are six lessons I gleaned from a morning at the people's court.

1. Learn the drill.
Don't expect teams of lawyers and a big payday for the winning side. Each state sets its own rules, but most states limit awards, from $3,000 to $10,000. With those relatively small numbers, it usually doesn't make sense to hire a lawyer (although most states allow it). "Small-claims court is designed for people to be able to bring suits on their own. That's the beauty of it," says Diana Fitzpatrick, editor of Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court (Nolo).

2. Try mediation first.
The erstwhile roommates, Brian and Angelo, have been bickering over the disputed amount --$770, plus the storage fee for the TV--when the defendant remarks, "We've been friends for 25 years. We could have worked it out." In fact, many states require that you try court-supervised mediation prior to going before a judge, which gives you the chance to solve the problem more creatively, says Nancy Cohen, a mediator in the Washington, D.C., area. One solution? An apology. "Sometimes, it's not about the money," she says.

3. Cut to the chase.
After listening to digressions on both sides, the judge elicits the basics: Angelo paid Brian upfront to rent a room in Brian's house for three months. A month later, Brian's girlfriend moved in, and Angelo had to leave. Angelo wants a refund for the remaining amount. That makes sense, but the back story has tried the judge's patience. Bad idea. Before going to court, practice to get to the essentials, says Fitzpatrick. Here, the issue is the rent. Angelo wins the $770 and gets squat for the storage. (He has already returned the TV.)


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4. Do your homework.
The next plaintiff is suing her brother-in-law for defamation of character (she says he spread rumors that they met at a hotel) and is asking for $5,000 in pain and suffering. The judge defines defamation as making a false statement or having a reckless disregard for the truth that causes harm. The plaintiff's story meets neither that standard nor the requirements of small-claims court--to show damage on one side and fault on the other. And pain and suffering awards are rare. Case dismissed.

5. Bring the paperwork.
For all the drama of the morning, one element has so far been missing: tangible evidence. "Most of us don't talk about expectations or write down how to handle differences that may come up," says Cohen. That's especially true of business dealings between friends, who often rely on oral agreements. Such agreements are accepted in small-claims court, but a written contract or a few pictures make for a better case.

6. Count on common sense.
One plaintiff did bring evidence: a beige comforter, plus a pillow sham with gold embroidery. Once, the comforter bore the same embroidery as the sham; post-dry cleaning, it did not. The dry cleaner's response: The embroidery needed special treatment that the label didn't spell out. That's the manufacturer's fault, not hers, she says. The judge is skeptical--after all, the dry cleaner seems to know how the comforter should have been treated. He awards the plaintiff $300, which is the cost of the comforter minus depreciation. In small-claims court, fairness prevails.

To learn how to file a claim, which costs as little as $30, visit the Web site of your local small-claims court.

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Jane Bennett Clark is a senior editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.



All contents copyright 2013 Kiplinger's Personal Finance Distributed by Tribune Media Services. All rights reserved.

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