BY STEP THROUGH SMALL CLAIMS COURT
1. COMPLAINT FILED:
Chapter 19 of Ohio Revised Code explains the
Provisions of the Small Claims Act.
(a) The Plaintiff is the person who is suing
the Defendant. Be sure to bring with
you any evidence or exhibits you intend to use to prove your claim and the
correct name and address of the person you are suing. At the time of the filing, the Plaintiff is informed of the date
on which the case will be heard by the Magistrate. Even though a Counterclaim or Cross-Claim has been filed, unless
otherwise noted by the Court in writing, this date will remain the hearing
(b) The Small Claims Law provides that we
can assist you in reducing your Claim, Counterclaim, or Cross-Claim to a short
and plain statement in writing. At the
time of filing, we provided you with a hand-out which contains limited
information. These handouts are
available for pick-up by anyone during Small Claims business hours, or by mail
by sending a self-addressed stamped number 10 envelope.
(c) Other than that, we are prohibited by
law in advising you whom to sue, how to set forth the facts of your claim, the
legal procedure to follow or which legal procedures are available to you or
“What do I do next?” as this would constitute the unlawful practice of
law. See Ohio Revised Code 4705.01.
A copy of
the COMPLAINT is mailed by Certified Mail to the Defendant by the Court. If service is not perfected, the Plaintiff will
be notified and be required to request additional service as well as pay the
appropriate filing fee. The hearing will not go forward until service has been
actual hearing (Trial) is held before the Magistrate. At that time, both parties MUST have all their witnesses,
papers, bills or whatever they have in their possession (evidence) that will
help in winning or defending their case.
Bring the ‘Original’ and two (2) copies of all the documents that you
intend to testify from, and admit into evidence. At the trial you must prove your case by the Preponderance of the
Evidence, which means the greater weight of evidence.
are acceptable, but, the personal attendance of your witness or witnesses to
testify is preferred. The written
Affidavit must be signed, dated, and notarized. You must bring with you persons who have present knowledge of the
entire incident regarding your claim.
The Magistrate will NOT continue the hearing because you
“forgot” to bring along some evidence or did not bring along a witness. Bring all your witnesses and evidence! You can subpoena witnesses through the Clerk
of Courts office. Do so well in advance
of the hearing date.
4. DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE:
the evidence and testimony presented to him, the Magistrate will make a
“Decision” either immediately at the hearing or after studying the facts and
the law. A copy is handed or mailed to
each party. (A Magistrate’s decision
shall be served on all the parties or their attorney).
5. OBJECTION TO
THE MAGISTRATE’S DECISION:
for filing. Within fourteen days of the
filing of a Magistrate’s decision, a party may file written objections to the
Magistrate’s decision. If any party timely files objections, any
other party may file a response to those objections not later than ten days
after the first objections are filed.
If a party makes a request for findings of fact and conclusion of law
under Civ. R. 52, the time for filing objections begins to run when the
Magistrate files a decision including findings of fact and conclusions of
law. A filing fee of $10.00 is required
at the time the objection is filed.
(b) Form of objections. Forms available at Clerk’s office. Objections shall be specific and state with
particularity the grounds of objection.
Either party has fourteen (14) days to file an objection to the
Magistrate’s decision. All objections MUST
be accompanied by a $10.00 filing fee and ONE of the following: a) A transcript prepared, at your expense, from
the courtroom video (if a video was in fact recorded); b) An agreed
Reconstruction of Evidence as presented at the original hearing (must be agreed
to by all/both parties); c) If court reporter was hired by either party, and
was present at the time of small claims hearing, a certified transcript
prepared by that court reporter and paid for by either the objecting Plaintiff
or objecting Defendant. If alternatives
a, b or c are not possible, then by an Independent Review of the file, and all
documents and exhibits presented at the original small claims hearing. Said review to be done by the Judge of this
court as per Civil Rule 53(E)(4)(b). A
party shall not assign as error on appeal the court’s adoption of any finding
of fact or conclusion of law unless the party has objected to that finding or
conclusion under this rule.
(c) If you do file an objection, you MUST
send a copy to the other party and indicate that you have done this on your
objection above your signature. If you
fail to do this, under Civil Rule 5D, your objection WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED BY
6. FINAL JUDGMENT:
The Judge of the Berea Municipal Court will
thoroughly review the Case File, Magistrate’s Decision, the Objections, if any,
and enter Final Judgment which may be the exact Magistrate’s Decision or a
modification of it.
Judgment entered by the Judge can be appealed to the Court of Appeals. This is a very technical procedure which, MUST
be done within a relatively short time after the Judgment and will probably
require the services of an attorney.
8. VEHICLE COMPLAINTS:
your vehicle MUST be shown at the time of your hearing. Only the owner of the vehicle can sue for
damages. The owner must be a party to
the lawsuit and must be present at the trial to testify as to “damages”. If you are a Lessee, we suggest you contact
the Lessor prior to filing suit. The
Lessee of a vehicle can sue for damages, but MUST name the Lessor in
9. RIGHT TO
HAVE AN ATTORNEY:
Small Claims was originally conceived as being for lay people, and still is,
more often than not the parties appear without attorneys. However, anyone in a Small Claims Hearing can
have an attorney. (O.R.C.
1925.01(D)). It is your choice whether
or not to bring along an attorney.
NOTE THAT A CORPORATION USUALLY WILL HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENT IT. The agent, or officer of a corporation
cannot practice law and act as an attorney - that is, engage in cross
examination, argument, or any other act of advocacy. (O.R.C. 1925.17) The Magistrate will NOT continue a case for
you to get an attorney if at the hearing the other party arrives with an
than the above, we cannot advise you whom to have present at the trial or how
to proceed. Please consult an attorney
about any questions you may have regarding any hand-out. The hand-outs are only for your
convenience. That is why you should
consult an attorney regarding your claim or how the hand-outs apply to you.
10. EXPERT TESTIMONY:
are relying on the Statement or Opinion of some other person (an expert) that
the repairs to your personal property (car, appliance, etc.) were improperly
done or that a product you purchased is defective, or a remodeling job was not
done in a good workmanship like manner, you must have that qualified (opinion)
witness in court to testify (you can subpoena that witness). A written statement or Affidavit of such
witness is NOT admissible even if notarized.
11. LOCAL RULES OF THE BEREA MUNICIPAL COURT RULES -
or proceeding shall be accepted for filing by the Clerk of this Court unless
there first shall be deposited the filing fee required by this Court in its
schedule of costs, except that upon representation of indigence, the Clerk of
this Court shall investigate the accuracy of such representation and upon
finding that such indigence does exist, the security for cost shall be waived.
When a jury trial is demanded, the party requesting
same shall be REQUIRED to make an advance deposit as required by law and fixed
by the court, except upon a finding of indigence as above.
and advance payments of fees and costs shall be returned only by Order of
Court, and only when the same have been paid by the party against whom they are
assessed by the Court.