San Francisco-based small claims assistance services offer easy filing; are they worth the cost?

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Thursday, February 17, 2022
Are small claims assistance services worth the cost?
The small claims filing process can be frustrating, but a new service "Dispute" says they can make it easy.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For many, small claims court acts as the go-to service for resolving a dispute when nothing else seems to work. However, that process can be quite frustrating, as it was for one local woman until she found a creative solution.

"Oso, sit. Oso sit. Good boy." Linda Huang and her border collie Australian Shepherd Oso have been nearly inseparable since she rescued him just before the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago.

"I regularly tell my boyfriend Oso ranks above him in life," Huang says frankly while chuckling.

Huang received the scare of her life when Oso began acting sick after being taken to the beach by a dog-sitting company. She believes his illness was caused by something he ate.

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"He started violently throwing up. That transitioned into two weeks of diarrhea -- bloody diarrhea -- it was terrible," Huang said.

Huang says it costs her more than $2,500 dollars to nurse Oso back into good health.

She filed a small claims court case against the company when it refused to take responsibility. However, the court rejected her claim when she couldn't find the proper office to serve the court papers.

"At this point I was already like hours of research into everything, and I'm just very tired. Then I found Dispute," said Huang.

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Dispute is a San Francisco-based company which helps claimants file their small claim cases. "It takes a lot of work to actually get your case accepted. So we help prepare the paperwork and file it for people," says Dispute co-founder and CEO Mayank Gupta.

Dispute simplifies the small-claims process by offering to guide claimants through the do-it-yourself option for $79. If the claimant still finds the process too complicated, Dispute will do everything for you for $349.

Most counties offer advisors for free who will also guide you through the process. But Gupta says the offices are underfunded and difficult to reach.

"Our service is definitely a convenience service designed to make the process easier. And actually, our website has all these resources available for free. So we don't want people to pay us if they believe they can do it themselves," said Gupta.

Huang says there were just too many little complications for her to handle this herself. Overall, she's glad she hired Dispute. "I've already said I wish they could concierge my life. Just very responsive. They definitely listen," she said.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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