Elbert County Small Claims Court
Procedures for the Hearing
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. In the event the mediation does not resolve the claim, the case will proceed to the hearing. 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:
- allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- Postpone the case until 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).
How should I prepare for the hearing?
Prior to the hearing you should:
- Ensure you have all copies of any documents you need for the case. You should make at least two additional sets of copies (one for the court and one for the other party).
- 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 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.
- 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).
- 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)
- Explain why the defendant is being sued (and why the defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all relevant documents regarding the claim (for example, any contracts, receipts, etc.)
You can obtain a subpoena from the Elbert County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
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 will be heard in the state or superior court of Elbert 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.
Filing Procedures for Elbert Small Claims Court cases
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:
Do I need to hire an attorney?
How do I pick a hearing date?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Elbert County. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. Because of this, the disputes in this court are handled quickly and inexpensively.
Elbert County Court Location
The magistrate court for Elbert County is located at:
The court can be reached by telephone at: 706-283-2027 and fax at 706-283-2004. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Lanie J. Simmons.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Elbert County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
- Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
- 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
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
Can the Defendant sue the Plaintiff?
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 will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.
Which County do I file my case in?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Elbert 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.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. 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. The extra charge could is usually between $25-$35 (to serve the added party).
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. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.
How Much Time Does a Defendant Have to Answer?
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.
What’s a default judgment?
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 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 a 30 day window to respond to plaintiff’s claim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”