Columbia County Small Claims Court
Locations for Columbia County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Columbia County is located at:PO Box 777 Evans, GA 30809
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Jason Troiano. The telephone number for the court is: 706-868-3316. The fax number is 706-868-3314.
Can I hire an attorney?
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.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
Prior to the hearing you should:
- 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 will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them.
- 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 documnt which can be completed by you and issued by the court which commands a person to appear in court and may require them to bring certain documents to court as well.
- 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.
- dismiss the case.
- A tenant refuses to pay for damages which are more than the security deposit
- A landlord wants to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent
- Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
- Name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if the plaintiff has one)
- 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 documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for Columbia County.
What are the hearing procedures?
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 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 takes in evidence and provides for all parties for an opportunity to present their case. When both parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). 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:
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.” The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
Defendant’s Time to Answer
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.
Yes. This is called a counterclaim. The defendant can file this against the plaintiff’s original claim if the defendant’s claim is related to the plaintiff’s initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is less than $15,000. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.
What types of cases are filed in Columbia County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
Can I file my case in Columbia County?
The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Columbia County, you may 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 you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Columbia County, you can file here.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee which is submitted along with the initial paperwork (the sworn statement). The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. 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. The extra charge could is usually between $25-$35 (to serve the added party).
The Columbia County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give legal advice. For example, the court clerk would be able to review your completed forms to make sure your signature is in the appropriate blanks but is not able to tell you which defendant you should sue. Also, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win.
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. An additional hearing by the court will be necessary if the plaintiff asked for something that does not have a specific dollar amount. The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the claim. Once defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in “default.”
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
How can I file a claim?
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). The sworn statement should usually include the following:
How do I appeal a judgment?
If a party is not satisfied with the court’s decision, that party may file an appeal. The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Columbia County. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). The appeal needs to be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
How do I pick a hearing date?
In Columbia County, the court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.