Bulloch County Small Claims Court
Yes. 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.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Bulloch County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
- A tenant refuses to pay for damages which are more than the security deposit
- Tenant fails to pay rent and landlord wants to evict tenant
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- Failure of a merchant to deal with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
How do I appeal a judgment?
If you are not happy with the court’s decision (and generally at least one party, sometimes both, are not satisfied with the judgment), the party may file an appeal (or ask a higher court to review the judgment). The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Bulloch 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.
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
How does the defendant learn of the case?
After the case is filed the court clerk serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
Can I hire an attorney?
How do I pick a hearing date?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Bulloch County. The date for the hearing is generally 15 to 30 days after the defendant files his or her answer.
Locations for Bulloch County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Bulloch County is located at:P.O. Box 1004 Statesboro, GA 30459
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate June B. Braswell. The telephone number for the court is: 912-764-6458. The fax number is 912-489-6731.
Preparing for the Hearing
The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:
- Collect all the documents you need for your case. Also prepare extra copies for the judge and other party (or parties)
- Speak with all witnesses you intend to call to support your case. You should confirm they are available and willing to appear on the hearing date.
- If you need to bring in a witness to prove your case and the witness is not being cooperative with you, prepare a subpoena.
- 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 Bulloch County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
When a defendant fails to appear at the hearing or respond to the claim, the court can grant a default judgment. If it is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of damages asked for in the suit, plus court costs. If the plaintiff is asking for non-monetary damages (like property), the court has to conduct a separate hearing to determine the dollar amount of the damages. The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the claim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
Is Bulloch County the “proper” County for my case?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Bulloch County, you can file the case in this County. If the defendant is a corporation, the claim must be filed in the county of the registered agent for the company. (Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817 to find out if a business is a corproation and the name and address of the registered agent). If the business you are suing is unincorporated, you should file the case in the County where the business is physically located.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. This filing fee includes the cost for the clerk to serve one defendant. 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. This extra charge could be between $25 and $35.
The Bulloch County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give 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. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
Some counties require you to go to mediation before a hearing in front of a judge. Mediation is an attempt to try and settle the case without a hearing. Even if the parties agree to settle the case out of court, the plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs (costs for filing the case, serving defendants, any subpoenas issues, etc.). If the parties cannot agree to settle the case, the the court will hear arguments presented by the plaintiff and the defendant. The court takes in evidence and provides for all parties for an opportunity to present their case. When both (or all parties) are done presenting evidence, the judge will issue a decision. The court could award damages to the plaintiff, the defendant, or both depending on the merits of the case.
If the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing, the court may do any of the following:
- The court can allow defendant to put on his or her evidence and then issue a decision without hearing from the plaintiff.
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- Dismiss the case
If the defendant does not show at the hearing, the court has the authority to grant a default judgment against the defendant. The name comes from the fact that because the defendant does not show, the plaintiff wins the case by “default.” It is strongly recommended you attend the hearing whether you are the plaintiff or defendant (regardless of whether you believe the case to be strong or weak).
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. The sworn statement should include the following details:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if there is one)(Make sure this is correct as this is how the court will contact you if there are any issues)
- Include the name and street address of the defendant (this is what the court will use to serve the defendant)
- Amount of money plaintiff is seeking (sometimes called damages)
- Detail why the defendant is being sued (and why this defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all relevant documents regarding the claim (for example, any contracts, receipts, etc.)
Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.