Guide to Small Claims Court
This guide to Small Claims Court is designed to help you understand small claims court procedures. This information is not intended to constitute legal advice or take the place of an attorney should you feel one is necessary. Its sole purpose is to help you understand the process.
I. Actions Heard in Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court is designed to handle small matters in the simplest manner possible. You do not need a lawyer to file a small claims action, but you may have a lawyer represent you if you wish. You may only file an action for money. (not for the return of property or for any other remedy). The maximum claim is $6,000. You may not bring an action for libel, slander, malicious prosecution or abuse of process. You may not sue for exemplary or punitive damages. There are no jury trials. (See Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1925) An individual, company or corporation may file a claim against another individual, company or corporation. You may file a claim in Perry County Municipal Court if:
II. How To Start a Small Claims Action
A. Filing the Complaint
Small claims complaint forms are available at the Court and on this web site. You can access them through the Forms section near the bottom of this page. You may use the Court's form or one that is similar as long as it provides the Court with all of the information that it needs. Please submit 4 copies and an original.
Your complaint must contain the following information:
B. Notification of Hearing Date
After a complaint is filed the Court does two things:
III. Response to a Small Claims Action
The defendant does not have to file an answer or any other paper. S/he must simply appear at the scheduled hearing with the evidence (documents, witnesses etc.) s/he needs to defend the lawsuit. (See WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE HEARING)
A counterclaim is a claim that can be brought by a defendant in a small claims action if the defendant feels that the person suing him/her actually owes him/her money. A counterclaim is not a new lawsuit. A counterclaim may only be brought if it arises out of the same set of facts or circumstances as the original lawsuit. In order for the suit to remain in small claims court it must seek monetary damages of $6,000 or less.
If a defendant has a legitimate counterclaim against the plaintiff but fails to file one, he may not be permitted to file a claim against the plaintiff for the same thing at a later date.
Counterclaim forms are available at the Court and on this web site. You can access them through the Forms section near the bottom of this page.You may use the court's form or one that is similar, as long as it gives the Court all of the information that it needs:
V. Service Requirements
Whenever you file a document of any kind with the Court (with the exception of the complaint) you must serve a copy of the document filed on the opposing party. You accomplish this by mailing or hand delivering a copy to the opposing party at his/her last known address. You must prove to the Court that you served the opposing party by adding a statement to the document informing the Court of the date and manner of service. For Example:
A copy of the foregoing document was mailed on the 1st day of May, 2002 to John Doe at 11 Anywhere Road, New Lexington, Ohio, 43764.
VI. What to Expect at the Hearing
A. How To Prepare
REMEMBER: This is your only chance to prove your case. If you are the plaintiff, it is your job to prove that the defendant owes you money. You must also have evidence to prove how much the defendant owes you. If you are a defendant and you filed a counterclaim you must prove that the plaintiff owes you money on your counterclaim and you must have evidence to prove how much the plaintiff owes you. Make sure you have all of the documents that you need. Bring all papers that you believe will assist you in your claim. (Such as contracts, canceled checks, bills, receipts and letters.) Remember: You have to prove that you are entitled to recover and you must also prove the amount that you are entitled to recover.
Make sure you bring any physical evidence that you need. If you need photographs, or wish to show the Court an object to help prove your claim make sure you bring them with you to court.
Make sure you bring any witnesses you need to testify on your behalf. Letters and affidavits stating what your witnesses would say if they were present will not be admitted. All witnesses must be present to testify. You will also be required to submit a list of your witnesses to the Court at least 5 days prior to the hearing.
B. What Happens at the Hearing
You should appear at Court a short time before your case is scheduled to make sure you are on time. Report to the clerk's office and a clerk will tell you where to go.
Your case will be heard before a Judge. The plaintiff will have the first opportunity to tell his side of the story. The defendant will then be given an opportunity to tell his side of the story.
Small claims hearings can take anywhere from ten to forty-five minutes. You should, however, be prepared to stay longer if necessary.
Helpful Hints: Make sure your documents are organized before you come to Court. Also make sure that you have your thoughts organized so you can explain the situation as clearly and concisely as possible.
Follow the instructions given to you by the Judge. Do not interrupt when the other side is testifying. Both sides will be given an opportunity to speak.
VII. The Decision
At the end of the hearing the Judge will either announce his/her decision or take the matter under consideration. In either case both parties will receive a copy of a written report containing the Judge’s decision within thirty days of the hearing (unless extraordinary circumstances require longer).
The following list includes forms necessary for small claims cases as well as the mediation program.