Small Claims Division
Phone: (937) 382-8985
Fax: (937) 383-0130
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 help you understand the process. A more detailed, written guide is available at the Court.
General Rules for Filing Small Claims
- The amount claimed cannot exceed $6,000.00 and you may not separate your claim into multiple suits.
- There is a $50.00 filing fee for the filing of a Small Claims complaint that names one Defendant; and a $10.00 filing fee for each additional Defendant named located at a different address. This fee must be paid at the time the complaint is filed. Filing fees for counterclaims or cross claims are $10.00.
- You must know the complete address of the party you file suit against (ie: street address, apartment number, P.O. Box #, etc).
- If you are a minor, under 18, you must have your parent or guardian file the suit for you.
- You may not sue a minor. You may sue a minor through his parent or legal guardian.
- The party filing the suit must prove his case by a preponderance of the admissible, credible evidence.
- DEPUTY CLERKS ARE NOT ATTORNEYS AND BY LAW CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. If you require legal advice, you must get the advice from an attorney.
- When a judgment is obtained and the Defendant refuses to pay, the Clerk's office will supply the Plaintiff with the necessary forms to attempt collection of the judgment.
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 Clinton County Municipal Court if:
- the individual, company or corporation you are suing lives or has its principal place of business in Clinton County;
- the actions giving rise to the complaint occurred in Clinton County; or
- the property that is the subject of the claim is located in Clinton County.
How You Start A Small Claims Action
Filing the Complaint
Small claims complaint forms are available at the Court. 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 3(three) copies
and an original.
Your complaint must contain the following information:
- Correctly identified parties. The name and address of the plaintiff and the name and address of the defendant. YOU MUST HAVE THE CORRECT NAME OF THE DEFENDANT otherwise any judgment you get may not be enforceable.
- A brief but clear statement of the reason the suit is being brought. In other words, you need to tell the Court why the defendant owes you money. You should include the date, time and place of the transaction or incident on which you base your complaint.
- The amount of money you believe the defendant owes you.
- A copy of any relevant contract, canceled or NSF check, promissory note or account should be attached to the complaint.
- You must sign your complaint either before a clerk here at the court or before a notary public if you intend to mail it in.
- Your complaint must be accompanied by a $50.00 filing fee.
Notification of Hearing Date
After a complaint is filed the Court does two things: 1) It schedules a hearing on the claim and sends notice of that date to the plaintiff and 2) It notifies the defendant by certified mail at the address supplied by the plaintiff that he has been sued and of the date of the hearing.
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 soon to be on this WEB Site. 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:
- a brief but clear statement why the plaintiff owes the defendant money; and
- how much money the defendant thinks s/he should get from the plaintiff.
- The counterclaim must be filed at least 7 days before the hearing.
- It must be accompanied by a filing fee of $10.00.
- The defendant must serve a copy of the counterclaim on the plaintiff. (See 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, 1994 to Donna Defendant at 11 Anywhere Road, Clinton County, Ohio, 45---."
What to Expect at the Hearing
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, though considered, normally do not carry as much weight as does a live witness.
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. Check in with the bailiff as soon as you arrive in the Courtroom.
Your case will be heard before a Court appointed Magistrate 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.All of your statements should be brief and to the point. Follow the instructions given to you by the Magistrate. Do not interrupt when the other side is testifying. Both sides will be given an opportunity to speak.
At the end of the hearing the Magistrate 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 Magistrate's decision within thirty days of the hearing (unless extraordinary circumstances require longer).
Objecting to the Decision
When To Object
If you do not agree with the Magistrates decision you have fourteen days to object to it. The opposing party then has ten days in which to file a reply to those objections the opposing party must be served with a copy of the objection and reply.
How To Object
Your objections must be made in writing and filed with the court. They should be brief and to the point. They should tell the Judge exactly why you think the decision is wrong. It is important to note:
- The Judge will not consider new evidence that you did not produce at the hearing.
- If you disagree with the Magistrate's determination as to what the facts are in your case you must file a transcript of the proceedings with your objections.
- Notice: Failure to file objections is a waiver of your right to appeal the courts adoption of the findings of facts and conclusions of law.