Who May File a Columbia County Small Claims Court Case?
A person can file a small claims court case in Florida if any of the following apply:
- You are 18 years or older
- A parent or guardian on behalf of anyone under 18
- You are filing or acting on behalf of a corporation as an officer with prior written authorization
Columbia County Small Claims Court Jurisdiction
In Florida, a small claims court case can only be filed in the county where the incident giving rise to the claim occurred, the property involved in the case sits, or where the Defendant lives. If none of these apply, then the Columbia County Small Claims Court will not have proper jurisdiction to hear the 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). Claims up to $5,000.00 (not including interest, attorney fees, or costs) can be filed in small claims court. 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.
Before Filing your Columbia County Small Claims Court Case
Prior to filing a Columbia County Small Claims Court case, you should try and discuss with the opposing party about what is actually being contested. The easiest way for this is to draft and deliver a letter to the other party which succintly details your complaint. There is a chance your issue can be resolved prior to filing your claim. This is the simplest and easiest way of resolving your case before the court system becomes involved (and will resolve it far quicker).
Are Jury Trials available in Columbia County Small Claims Court Cases?
Even though it is small claims court, a jury trial is available. However, most small claims court cases are heard by a judge. Either party may make a request for 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 the plaintiff or defendant request a jury trial, the case will be tried in front of a judge.
Columbia 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 case cannot be settled, 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. Appearance at the pre-trial conference is mandatory. A person representing someone else at a pre-trial conference needs to have full settlement authority otherwise the court may award court costs and attorneys fees against a party that does not comply with this. A corporation may be represented at the pre-trial conference by an officer of the corporation or any employee authorized by an officer of the corporation. 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.
Location for Small Claims Courthouse in Columbia County
Small claims court cases can be filed at the Columbia County Courthouse which is located at: 173 N.E. Hernando Avenue Lake City, FL 32055 The courthouse can be reached at: 386-758-1041.
Rules Governing Small Claims Court Cases in Columbia County
Small Claims court cases in Columbia County are governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules.
Service of Defendant in a Columbia County Small Claims Case
After the filing a case, the Defendant needs to be served (the court cannot move forward with the case until service of all Defendants has been completed). The plaintiff needs to know the full names of all the individuals you are suing. You also need an 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 a corporation is being sued, you must have the full name of the corporation and the name and address of a corporate officer or registered agent for the business. The plaintiff can search for this information on the Florida Department of State, Department of Corporation websites at http://www.sunbiz.org or by phone at 850-245-6052. You also need to learn if the business is operating under a ficitious name. The Department of Corporations can assist you with this.
Types of Cases Not Handled in Columbia County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court does not handle cases involving the following:
- alimony payments
- traffic court fines
Filing a Claim in Columbia County Small Claims Court
You need to contact the Columbia 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.
Columbia County Small Claims Court Costs and Fees
The costs for filing a Small Claims case in Columbia County include the filing fee, which is based on the amount of your claim, as well as a service fee for summoning each party to court. If a party obtains a judgment in its favor, these court costs can be added into the total amount of the judgment. A person interested in filing a small claims court case should contact the Columbia County Clerk Court to ask about the fee for your specific case.