WHAT IS SMALL CLAIMS COURT!
The Small Claims
Court is a division of the Berea Municipal Court which allows parties to file
MONEY ONLY claims up to $3,000.00 or counterclaims up to $3,000.00. Although
attorneys are allowed in Small Claims Court, you do not need to have legal
knowledge to file a claim, however, it is up to you to provide all the
information to the Small Claims Clerk about the person or business you are
WHO CAN SUE OR BE SUED?
In order to file a
small claim in the Berea Municipal Court, the party you are suing, the
“Defendant”, must be located within the Berea Municipal Court District, or the
incident must have taken place within the Berea Municipal Court District.
A small claim can be
filed by or against any individual, business, company or organization. Corporations can file claims through their
officers or employees, but claims by privately owned businesses must be filed
by the owner. If you are filing a claim
against a business, you must know if it is incorporated. This information can
be obtained by contacting the Secretary of State in Columbus. If the business is not incorporated, you
must have the complete name of the owner. Sometimes this information can be
found in the City Directory at the Public Library.
A corporation, even a small, one person operation, may
through it’s officers and/or shareholders file a claim in small claims court and present evidence
either in support of its claim or in defense of a claim against it. The officers or shareholders of such a
corporation, however, may not under Ohio law “engage in cross/examination,
argument or other acts
advocacy”. ORC 1925.17.
HOW DO I FILE MY CLAIM?
The person filing the
claim, the “Plaintiff”, must appear at the Clerk’s office during normal
business hours of the court. The following information is necessary to file a
claim: complete name, current mailing address, telephone number, date and
location of the incident, and proof of value (i.e. receipts, estimates, leases,
contracts, IOU’s, account records, or canceled checks) If the Defendant owes
you more than $3,000 you will have to forfeit any money over $3,000.00, or file
a regular Civil case. There is a filing
fee for a Small Claim case and you should contact the Clerk’s office for a
current fee schedule.
Once the complaint is
filed, notice of such filing and the date of the Court hearing will be sent to
all parties. That hearing date will be approximately 4 - 6 weeks after the
complaint is filed.
If you are a
Defendant and believe that you have a claim against the Plaintiff, you can file
a counterclaim up to $3,000.00. Counterclaims must be filed no later than seven
(7) calendar days before the hearing date. If a counterclaim is filed, the
hearing date will remain the same.
WHAT DO I DO AT THE HEARING?
When your case is
called for hearing, have all the evidence you feel you will need to prove your
case. If you do not present a document (with copies for the other parties and
for you to keep) the Court cannot consider it in making the decision. You
should also bring with you any witnesses you feel will support your claim. You
may subpoena a witness to appear in court, but you should do this at least one
week before the hearing. If your claim is due to an auto accident, be sure to
bring your title.
When the Magistrate
calls your case, come forward with your proof and witnesses, and state your
case clearly, accurately, and honestly. Do not be hostile to the Magistrate or
to the other party. After the Plaintiff presents their case the Defendant will
be able to present their evidence and witnesses. Both parties can be
cross-examined by the other party or the Court.
Remember time is important! You cannot continue the court date
unless you request a continuance no later than 48 hours before the hearing. Also, be
early to the hearing so that you can get to the right place and get adjusted.
WHAT IF I WIN - OR LOSE?
The Magistrate will
render his decision in the form of a recommendation to the Judge. The
recommendation will be mailed to the parties.
Upon receipt of the decision, both parties have fourteen (14) days to
object to the decision to the Judge.
If the defendant has
not made a counterclaim, a judgment in his favor ends the case.
If judgment is
awarded to the plaintiff for all or part of his claim or to the defendant for
all or part of his counterclaim, the loser becomes the judgment debtor and
additional action can be taken against him if his debt is not paid or
HOW DO I GET MY MONEY
Once you receive a
Judgment in your favor, you may then start collection proceedings if the other
party still has not paid. This is the
hard part. While the Court can assist you
in the preparation of forms for Garnishment of Wages, Bank Attachments or
Levies, the Court itself cannot determine where the Judgment Debtor works,
banks, or owns property. It is your
responsibility to provide this information to the Court. If the party you sue
has no assets, you may not be able to collect.
Please keep in mind that the Clerk’s office employees are not attorneys
and are not allowed by Ohio Revised Code to give legal advice. If you require advice, you must consult with
A FINAL POINT
you have any questions about Small Claims Court or a particular case, please
contact the Clerk’s office at 826-5860.
Although Deputy Clerks are not attorneys, they may still be able to
answer some of your questions, or direct you to someone who can.