Small claims courts are set up to handle certain types of cases quicker than claims are handled in circuit court and in a less formal setting.
A small claims court can hear the following cases:
- Civil claims for money in an amount of $10,000 or less;
- Personal injury or tort claims in which the amount sought is $5,000 or less;
- Eviction actions;
- Replevin actions (actions to recover personal property);
- Return of earnest money paid towards the purchase of real property;
- Actions on arbitration awards regarding the purchase of real property; and
Small Claims Action is Commenced by Filing Summons and Complaints
As in circuit court, a small claims action is commenced by the filing of a summons and complaint. While the complaint doesn’t not need to be overly detail, it should contain enough allegations to demonstrate what relief is being sought and the basis for the party’s claim. The filed summons and complaint must then be served on the defendants. The process for this may vary from county to county.
A Return Date is then Set
The small claims court will set a return date, which is the date the parties must appear before the court or the date by which the defendants must file a written answer to the complaint. This process may again vary from county to county. If an answer is filed, it must set forth whether or not the defendant agrees with the allegations contained in the Complaint. If a return date is set for the parties to appear before the court, the court will typically ask the defendant whether he or she disputes the claims. If claims are disputed, a trial is typically set.
Small Claim Trials
Trials are typically conducted in a few hours either before a court commissioner or circuit court judge, although a party may request a jury. After the trial, the court or court commissioner will make a decision on the case and enter a judgement. The prevailing party may use a judgement to try to collect from the other party. The prevailing party may also be award certain costs that can be added to the amount of the judgement
Although small claims matters are meant to be quicker and less formal than matters in state circuit court, that doesn’t mean you must or should proceed without an attorney. Contact one of our small claims attorneys today to assist you with your legal needs!
Here are further resources to develop your understanding of small claims court: