Greene County Small Claims 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)
- 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 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.
Can I file my case in Greene County?
The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Greene County, you may 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. In order to find the registered agent for service of process, contact the 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 Greene County, you can file here.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee which is submitted along with the initial paperwork (the sworn statement). 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 will be an extra charge for the court to serve 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.
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 it is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of damages asked for in the suit, plus 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 caim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
Types of Cases Filed in Greene County Small Claims Court
Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Greene County 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
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
- 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 street address of the defendant (this is what the court uses to serve the defendant)
- Amount of money plaintiff is seeking (sometimes called damages)
- Brief, succint statement detailing why the defendant is being sued (include dates of all relevant events)
- Copies of all relevant documents regarding the claim (for example, any contracts, receipts, etc.)
- Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- Dismiss the case
How can I file a claim?
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. The sworn statement should usually include the following:
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. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
How do I appeal a judgment?
A party that is not satisfied with the judge’s decision can file an appeal of that judgment. The appeal will be heard by either the state or superior court in the county. For the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (remember you aren’t entitled to a jury trial in magistrate court). The appeal needs to be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
In Greene County, small claims court is sometimes called magistrate court. If you are unable to settle a dispute with a person or business, the matter can be filed in magistrate court.
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
Do I need to 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). 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.
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 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.). 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 (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.
The court has several options if the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing:
If the defendant does not show at the hearing, the court has the authority to grant a default judgment against the defendant. The name comes from the fact that because the defendant does not show, 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 do I pick a hearing date?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Greene County. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against the Plaintiff?
The defendant is able to issue a claim against the plaintiff. 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.
Greene County Court Location
The magistrate court for Greene County is located at:
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate LaVerne C. Ogletree. The telephone number for the court is: 706-453-3346. The fax number is 706-453-7649.
Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.