The Small Claims Court was established in 1968 as a division of the District Court system. Its purpose is to provide a court to be used by people without the aid of attorneys to settle monetary disputes of $5000 or less.
Some auto negligence cases may also be filed in the Small Claims Court. Since July 1, 1980, the No-Fault Insurance Law permits lawsuits for accident-caused damages to motor vehicles under certain conditions.
Although a party may seek legal advice before or after the hearing, he may not have an attorney represent him in court. Parties are not allowed legal representation in Small Claims Court. Each party simply states their case in their own words. After both sides have been heard, the judge or magistrate makes a ruling.
Once a ruling is made the parties must comply with the judges ruling. Its important to remember that a judges decision is final in Small Claims Court. It cannot be appealed to a higher court. However, if the case is heard by a magistrate, either party may ask that the case be reheard by a judge if the magistrates decision is unfavorable.
How to submit a civil/small claims lawsuit:
The first step: Purchase form for $1.
File a claim against the person or business you want to sue. This is done in person at a district court office. The claim can be filed in the county where the defendant lives, the county where the business is located, or in the county where the transaction took place.
Tell the clerk that you want to file a small claim. You will be be given instruction sheets explaining how the small claims division functions and how to begin and defend your case. You will also be given a simple form to fill out. The form is called an "Affidavit of Claim." * Please note that there are two different "back of form" pages which are both required to be filled out. You will need to know the exact name and address of the person or business you are suing, how much money you are suing for, and why you are suing. If you win the case, you are entitled to be reimbursed for the costs of filing your suit and having it served on the defendant.
Be sure that you give the correct and complete name and address of the defendant. This is very important. Unless you have the correct person or business and address, you may not be able to collect any money you are awarded. If you don't have correct name and address, it won't be served and therefore, will be dismissed.
If you have any questions or need help, ask the civil clerk. He or she will help you as much as is legally possible. The clerk may tell you how to use the court, but may NOT give legal advice.
Before the hearing:
If the judge decides in your favor, that means the defendant must pay you the amount ordered by the judge plus a small amount in court costs. If the defendant refuses to abide by the order of the court, there are various options open to you.
Contact the Civil/Small Claims Division where you have filed your claim to obtain information regarding post judgment proceedings.
Hours of Operation: