Grady County Small Claims Court
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against 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 of the defendant is generally heard by the magistrate court at the same time as the plaintiff’s initial claim.
Small Claims courts are also called Magistrate Courts in Grady County. If you are unable to settle a dispute with a person or business, the matter can be filed in magistrate court.
The magistrate or small claims court was designed so that disputes under a certain amount ($15,000) could be handled informally. Because of this, the disputes in this court are handled quickly and inexpensively.
Defendant’s Time to Answer
After the plaintiff files the claim, the magistrate court will serve the defendant with a copy of the claim (including the sworn statement) and a summons (with the date and time of the hearng) to appear in court. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
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 a way for both parties to meet with an independent third party who can evaluate the case and try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both 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 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 court may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, both, or none of the parties depending on what the facts of the case warrant.
The court has several options if the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing:
- allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- continue the case.
- 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.” The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
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 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 only thirty days to respond to the claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
Is Grady County the “proper” County for my case?
If the defendant is a person, the case must be filed in the County where they live. 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 Grady County, you can file here.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. 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. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
The Grady 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).
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:
- 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)
- Include the amount of money you are asking for as the plaintiff
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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 Grady County.
When will my hearing date be?
In Grady County, the court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
Grady County Court Location
The magistrate court for Grady County is located at:250 North Broad Street Box 2 Cairo, GA 39828
It can be reached by telephone at: 229-377-4132. The fax number is 229-377-4127. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Larry Bearden.
Types of Cases Filed in Grady County Small Claims Court
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims 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
- Landlord fails to return the security deposit to the tenant
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
How should I prepare for the hearing?
We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your hearing:
Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.
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. 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.
Can I hire an attorney for my Grady County Small Claims Court case?
You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You are able to file the case on your own completely without the assistance of an attorney. Small Claims court judges are heard and decided without a jury. Some courts utilize mediation as a tool to resolve a case without the time and expense of a trial. Some counties will even require a case to attempt to be settled at mediation prior to it being set for trial.