Bleckley County Small Claims Court
What types of cases are filed in Bleckley County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
- Renter does not or will not ay for damages to rental property
- A landlord wants to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
Locations for Bleckley County Small Claims Court
The Bleckley County magistrate court is located at:112 N. Second Street Cochran, GA 31014
The court can be reached by telephone at: 478-934-3202 and fax at 478-934-7826. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Helen J. Hart.
What are the procedures for filing a case?
A plaintiff (person who starts the claim or lawsuit) must file a sworn statement with the clerk of the appropriate magistrate court. The sworn statement simply spells out the claims made against the defenant and includes the facts on which the claim is based. At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- As the plaintiff, include your name, address, and telephone number (and your attorney’s if you retain one)(This is to ensure the court and other parties can contact you should the need arise).
- Name and strees address of the defendant
- Amount of money plaintiff is seeking (sometimes called damages)
- Explain why the defendant is being sued (and why the defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
How do I appeal a judgment?
A party that is not satisfied with the judge’s decision can file an appeal of that judgment. The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Bleckley County. Either party may request a jury trial for purposes of the appeal (something which is unavailable at the magistrate court level). The appeal must be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
In Bleckley County, the court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
Can I hire an attorney for my Bleckley County Small Claims Court case?
We cannot tell you whether or not you should hire an attorney. However, you may hire an attorney if you wish, but are not required to do so. You can file the case on your own (without retaining an attorney). Small Claims court judges are heard and decided without a jury. Some courts utilize mediation as a tool to resolve a case without the time and expense of a trial. Some counties will even require a case to attempt to be settled at mediation prior to it being set for trial.
Which County do I file my case in?
If the defendant is a person, the case must be filed in the County where they live. If you are suing a corporation, you must file your case in the County where the registered agent for service of process is located. To find the registered agent, contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817. If the business you are suing is unincorporated, you should file the case in the County where the business is physically located.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. Filing fees vary county to county but are generally between $45 and $55. If an additional defendant is named in the action, there is an extra charge for serving the additional party. The extra charge could is usually between $25-$35 (to serve the added party).
The Clerk for the Magistrate Court can direct you to the necessary forms (and review them for completeness) but is prohibited by law from giving legal advice. A clerk would be able to review your forms to make sure there is a signature in the appropriate blanks but will not be able to tell you which party you should sue. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.
The magistrate or small claims court was designed so that disputes under a certain amount ($15,000) could be handled informally. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
Defendant’s Time to Answer
After the plaintiff files the claim, the magistrate court will serve the defendant with a copy of the claim (including the sworn statement) and a summons (with the date and time of the hearng) to appear in court. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your hearing:
- Make sure you have copies of all the documents you need for your case. Prepare copies to provide to the opposing party and the court.
- Communicate with any witnesses you intend to call to prove your case. Confirm they are available on the day of the hearing.
- If a witness will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them.
- If you need additional documents for your case, you can issue a subpoena for those documents to obtain documents from other parties.
- A subpoena is a piece of paper completed by you and issued by the court which commands certain persons to appear in court and may direct them to bring documents with them or to produce evidence. You can obtain a subpoena from the Bleckley County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
Some counties require the parties to attempt to resolve the case through mediation before the court hears the case (assuming the mediation is unsuccessful). Mediation is a dispute resolution tool designed to try and resolve the case by meeting with an independent third party who can evaluate the case and try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to all parties. Even if mediation is successful, a plaintiff can still seek to recover court costs. If the parties cannot agree to settle the case, the the court will hear arguments presented by the plaintiff and the defendant. The court will also allow the plaintiff and defendant to question or dispute each other’s evidence during the hearing. When both (or all parties) are done presenting evidence, the judge will issue a decision. The judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts of the case.
The court has several options if the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing:
- allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- continue the case.
- dismiss the case.
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment against the defendant. The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against the Plaintiff?
The defendant is able to issue a claim against the plaintiff. This is called a counterclaim. The defendant can file a counterclaim against the plantiff’s original claim if it is related to it, and the total money claimed by the defendant is less than $15,000. The counterclaim of the defendant is generally heard by the magistrate court at the same time as the plaintiff’s initial claim.
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing or respond to the claim, the judge can issue a default judgment against the defendant. If a default judgment is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to what he or she asked for in the action and court costs. If the plaintiff asks for damages that are not measured in money (like specific property), the court will likely conduct an additional hearing to place a dollar amount on the value of the property (or item being asked for). The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the claim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”