What Jurisdiction does the Bay County Small Claims Court Have?
In Florida, small claims court actions can only be filed in the county where the Defendant lives, where the incident giving rise to the action occurred, or where the property involved is located. If none of the above apply, then jurisdiction is not property in Bay County and the court will not be able to hear your case. If this occurs, you risk obtaining a judgment that can then be challenged and attacked by the defendant after the case when you begin to collect it (which would mean you would have to start all over in the proper county). Small Claims court cases in Bay County can hear cases concerning claims up to $5,000.00 (with costs, attorneys fees and interests added on top of that). Rule 7.010 of the Florida rules of Court and Chapter 34 of the Florida Statutes is what authorizes the claim limit for small claims court cases.
Rules Governing Small Claims Court Cases in Bay County
Small Claims court cases in Bay County are governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules.
How to Prepare to File a Small Claims Court Case in Bay County
Before filing a case, it is important that you attempt to discuss your case with the opposing party about what the actual issue is. The best way to do this is to send a letter which clearly states your complaint. This may resolve your issue before you even have to file a case. This is the simplest and easiest way of resolving your case before the court system becomes involved (and will resolve it far quicker).
Jury Trial in Small Claims Court in Bay County
Even though it is small claims court, a jury trial is available. However, most small claims court cases are heard by a judge. Either the plaintiff or defendant may request a jury trial. Small Claims Court Rule 7.150 allows for a jury trial upon written demand of the plaintiff (when the suit is filed) or defendant within five days after being served with notice of the suit or at the pre-trial conference. If neither of these occur, the case will be tried to a judge.
Bay County Small Claims Court Pre-Trial Conference
The pre-trial conference is used for the court to attempt to see if your case can be resolved without a trial. This is usually done with an informal settlement conference or mediation. If the pre-trial conference is not successful in resolving your case, the court will set it for trial. The plaintiff needs to serve the Defendant before the pre-trial conference or the court will take the pre-trial conference off calendar. Pre-trial conference appearances are mandatory. Whoever appears must have full authority to settle the case otherwise costs and attorney fees incurred by the opposing party may be imposed. At a pre-trial conference, a corporation can be represented by an officer of an employee if the employee has been designated by an officer. Depending on how many defendants are involved in a case and when each defendant was served, the court may schedule different dates for pre-trial conferences on the same case. But, the plaintiff is still required to attend every pre-trial conference.
Who Can File a Small Claims Court Case in Bay County?
You can file a small claims court case if you are one of the following:
- A person 18 years of age or older
- A parent or guardian on behalf of anyone under 18
- For corporations, an officer may file on behalf of the corporation provided there is written authorization
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Bay County Small Claims Court
You need to contact the Bay Clerk’s Office and obtain and complete a Statement of Claim form. The form should be typed or printed with a pen to ensure it is legible.
How to Effect Service on a Defendant in Bay County Small Claims Court
Once a case is filed, the case cannot proceed until the Defendant has been served. You need to knows the full name of the individual that you are suing. You also need to a good address of where that person can be served. If you are suing a business, you need to ascertain whether the business is incorporated or not. If the business has incorporated, the plaintiff needs to ascertain the full name of the corporation and the name and address of a corporate officer or registered agent. This information can be obtained through the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations at 850-245-6052 or online at http://www.sunbiz.org. If a business has a fictitious name, you will need to obtain that as well. The fictitious name information can be obtained through the Department of State, Division of Corporations as well.
Court Costs and Fees for Bay County Small Claims Court
Costs for filing a small claims court case in Bay County consist of the filing fee (which is based on the amount of money you are seeking in your claim) and a service fee for bringing each defendant to court. If a party prevails in the case, it can add the costs and fees into the judgment and recover for those costs as well. You should contact the Bay County Clerk Court to inquire about the specific amount of the filing fee for your case.
What Types of Cases are Not Handled in Bay County Small Claims Court?
Bay County Small Claims Court handles all types of cases except:
- alimony payments
- traffic fines
Location for Small Claims Courthouse in Bay County
Small Claims cases can be filed at the Bay County Courthouse which is located at: 300 East 4th Street Panama City, FL 32401 The courthouse can be reached at: 850-763-9061.