A bill that would allow business owners to appear in court without an attorney for cases involving less than $2,000 passed the Senate on Wednesday.
Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) sponsored Senate Bill 281, which allows businesses in specific instances to forgo an attorney’s representation in legal matters with the Arkansas State Claims Commission. The exceptions include if the matter involves less than $2,000 at stake or if the claim revolves around an uncontested claim for a warrant reissuance or for the refund of a liquor license.
In Arkansas, Small Claims Court oversees cases for “recover for damages to personal property, for money owed or for delivery of personal property which is worth $5,000 or less,” according to the Arkansas Attorney General’s website. This court also deals with contracts, security deposits, and warranties.
Under Act 785 of 2019, a corporate or business entity is required to be represented by an attorney “at all times in a claim or action” concerning the claims commission. According to Garner, this bill would walk back some of the language and requirements of the 2019 act.
Garner said that when the bill was being discussed in 2019, the lawmakers said they would address any issues that arose. According to Garner, this bill is a way of cleaning up a small issue.
“I think for this small exemption they found that there’s no need to bring an attorney [for what are] typically quick claims that move forward rather quickly,” he said.
This bill is targeted toward small businesses rather than larger corporations, in Garner’s view. “This used to be how it was before last session. We changed the law o you had to have an attorney and this is basically carving out a little exception so they don’t have to eat that cost,” he said.
The matter passed in a 33-1 vote and has been transmitted to the Arkansas House of Representatives for review.