Dooly County Small Claims Court

Dooly County Small Claims Court

Dooly County Court Location

The magistrate court for Dooly County is located at:

113 N. 3rd Street Rm 2
Vienna, GA 31092

The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate William A. Willis. The telephone number for the court is: 229-268-4324. The fax number is 229-268-4320.

When will my hearing date be?

In Dooly 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.

How should I prepare for the hearing?

We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your hearing:

  • Collect all the documents you need for your case. Also prepare extra copies for the judge and other party (or parties)
  • 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 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 command from the court for a person or documents to appear at a certain time and date to give testimony or produce evidence. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for Dooly County.
    Dooly County Small Claims Court

    Dooly County Small Claims Court

    Small Claims courts are also called Magistrate Courts in Dooly County. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
    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.

    Types of Cases Filed in Dooly County Small Claims Court

    Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Dooly County Small Claims court:

    • 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
    • Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
    • A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
    • Borrower refuses to make payments on a loan
    • Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
  • Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
  • 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 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.). In the event the mediation does not resolve the claim, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court will hear evidence and provide an opportunity for both the plaintiff and the defendant to introduce their evidence (and allow each side to comment on the evidence introduced by the other party). When all parties are finished presenting their evidence, the court will render a decision. The court may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, both, or none of the parties depending on what the facts of the case warrant.
    If the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing, the court may do any of the following:

    • allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
    • 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 power to grant a default judgment against the defendant. It is called a default judgment because 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).

    Can I hire an attorney?

    You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You can file the case on your own (without retaining an attorney). 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.

    Is Dooly County the “proper” County for my case?

    The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Dooly 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 Dooly County, you can file here.
    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. The actual filing fee varies amongst counties but is usually 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 court clerk can direct you to the necessary forms and will check them for completeness once you have filled them out. However, the clerk is prohibited by law from giving legal advice. For example, a clerk could review your forms to make sure there is a signature where it is required but cannot tell you who you should name as a defendant. Also, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win.

    Can the Defendant File a Claim Against the Plaintiff?

    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 will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s 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. After that, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer the claim.

    What are the procedures for filing a case?

    The plaintiff (or person filing the action) needs to file a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. A sworn statement states the claims made against the defendant and includes the facts giving rise to the claim. 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
    • Include the amount of money you are asking for as the plaintiff
    • Brief, succint statement detailing why the defendant is being sued (include dates of all relevant events)
    • Include copies of all documents relevant to the claim (perhaps a contract for the purchase of a product, or lease)(Keep the originals with you for when you appear at the court trial)

    What’s a default judgment?

    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 entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with 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. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.

    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 will be heard by either the state or superior court in the county. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). The appeal must be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.

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