Small Claims hearings are heard in district court with the purpose of providing a setting for persons to settle their disputes/claims without an attorney. Knowledge of the law is not needed. Individuals, partnership, corporations may all file a claim.
A. Rules applicable to Small Claims:
- No jury trial.
- The maximum amount for a claim is $5,500.00
- Attorney's are not allowed, unless acting on their own behalf.
- Judge's decision is final, no right to appeal.
- Hearing is conducted on an informal basis.
B. Venue: Which district court do you file this claim?
The person suing (called the Plaintiff), shall file the claim where the cause of action arose, or the city where the defendant lives or is employed
How to Submit a Claim
- You may go to either the Grandville or Walker division and ask the clerk for a small claims affidavit form.
- Fill in the exact name and address of the person or business you are suing. This is very important. Unless you have the full and correct name and address you may not be able to file the affidavit of claim. You are not able to obtain personal service if you have a post office box. Once the affidavit is complete, you file it with the court and pay a filing fee which is determined by the amount of the claim and a service fee.
Before the Hearing
- The defendant will be served with the claim, by a person authorized by the court to serve pleadings.
- The hearing date will be issued on the date of filing or mailed out at a later date. Typically, the hearing date is scheduled within 30 days of the date of filing.
- You must notify your witnesses of time and date of the hearing.
- The defendant has the right to and may remove the matter from small claim to the general civil division.
- Before the hearing date or at the hearing date, you may meet with trained mediators in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
If it is resolved before the court date, there is no need to attend the scheduled small claims hearing. However, you do need to advise the court that the case has been settled.
- Be on time. Failure to be on time by plaintiff (the person suing) will result in the case being dismissed. Failure to be on time by the defendant will result in a default judgment entered after testimony is taken.
- Bring your witnesses and all papers, pictures, etc, which is called evidence.
- You may meet with the party you are suing and try to reach a settlement prior to going into the court hearing.
- You may, if both parties agree, mediate at the court.
- If a hearing is held, the judge or magistrate will decide the claim and give you his decision. The judgment will be mailed out to both parties.
Collecting on the Judgment
If the judge/or magistrate decide in your favor, a judgment will enter allowing you to collect the monies awarded you.
If the defendant refuses to pay, your options include:
- Discovery hearing – obtain financial information from defendant.
- Execution on personal property.
You need to wait 21 days from the date of judgment prior to filing any of the above. A filing fee is required with each transaction.