Chattahoochee County Small Claims Court
Appealing a Judgment
If a party is not satisfied with the court’s decision, that party may file an appeal. The appeal will be heard in the state or superior court of Chattahoochee County. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the judge’s decision.
Locations for Chattahoochee County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Chattahoochee County is located at:379 BROAD ST P.O. BOX 120 CUSSETA, GA 31805
It can be reached by telephone at: 706-989-3643. The fax number is 706-989-1508. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Gary Charles Daniel.
Can I file my case in Chattahoochee County?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Chattahoochee County, you can file the case in this County. 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 defendant is an unincorporated business (fancy for is not a corporation), file the case in the county where the business is physically located (ie. if the business is located in Chattahoochee County, file it here).
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. This filing fee includes the cost for the clerk to serve one defendant. The filing fee varies by each county but is 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 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.
Filing Procedures for Chattahoochee Small Claims Court cases
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 describes the charges made against the defendant (the person or business that is being sued by the plaintiff). At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- Name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if the plaintiff has one)
- Name and street address of the defendant (this is what the court uses 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.)
- Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
- Tenant fails to pay rent and landlord wants to evict tenant
- Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
- A mechanic charges for work not completed, unnecessary repairs, or poor workmanship.
Can I hire an attorney for my Chattahoochee 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 are able to file the case on your own, without the assistance of an attorney (again, the process was designed to be inexpensive). These cases are tried and heard in front of a judge, without a jury (again, they are designed so a party does not need to retain an expensive attorney to represent them in a case). Mediation is a tool that is sometimes used to help resolve a case without a trial. Some counties offer this as a service, and some counties require a case be sent to mediation prior to it being heard at a trial.
When will my hearing date be?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Chattahoochee County. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
If the defendant fails to answer the claim or appear at the hearing, the judge can issue a default judgment without hearing from defendant. If a default judgment is entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with 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 caim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
What types of cases are filed in Chattahoochee County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
How do I prepare 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 a witness is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, prepare a subpoena.
- If in preparing your documents you find that you need additional documents, you can subpoena documents from other parties as well.
- 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. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office.
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 an attempt to try and settle the case without a hearing. Even if the parties are agreeable to settling the case through mediation, a plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay 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 parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). The judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts 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.
- continue the case.
- The court can dismiss the case
If the defendant does not show at the hearing, the court has the power to grant a default judgment against the defendant. It is called a default judgment because the plaintiff wins the case by “default.” We recommend making sure you attend the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant (regardless of whether you think the case is good or bad).
The defendant is able to sue the plaintiff (this is called a counterclaim). The defendant can file this against the plaintiff’s original claim if it is related to the initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is les 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.
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. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
Small Claims courts are also called Magistrate Courts in Chattahoochee County. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.