Hall County Small Claims Court
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. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
What are the hearing procedures?
In some counties, the court requires both parties to attempt to resolve the case through mediation before the court will hear the case (if 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 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 mediation is not successful, 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.
- 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.” We recommend making sure you attend the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant (regardless of whether you think the case is good or bad).
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.
Do I need to hire an attorney?
You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You are able to file the case on your own, without the assistance of an attorney (again, the process was designed to be inexpensive). All cases are tried and heard before a judge, without a jury. You should remember that the procedures and rules for small claims court cases are designed so that a party should not need to have to retain an expensive attorney in order for their case to be effectively presented. 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.
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 caim. Once defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in “default.”
How do I pick a hearing date?
In Hall County, the court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim. The date for the hearing is generally 15 to 30 days after the defendant files his or her answer.
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 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). Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the judge’s decision.
How should 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)
- Contact any witnesses you need to call to prove your case and confirm that they will appear on the hearing date
- If a witness is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, prepare a subpoena.
- If you need additional documents for your case, you can issue a subpoena for those documents to obtain documents from other parties.
- 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 Hall County.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Hall County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
- Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
- Renter fails to pay rent or Owner seeks to evict renter
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to make payments on a loan
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- A mechanic charges for work not completed, unnecessary repairs, or poor workmanship.
Locations for Hall County Small Claims Court
The Hall County magistrate court is located at:P.O. Box 1435 Gainesville, GA 30503
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Margaret S. Gregory. The telephone number for the court is: 770-531-6912. The fax number is 770-531-6917.
Which County do I file my case in?
The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Hall 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 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. A portion of the filing fee is for the cost for the court clerk to serve one defendant. The filing fee varies by each county but is generally between $45 and $55. There is an extra charge for service for any additional defendants (if you are suing more than one person). The extra charge could is usually between $25-$35 (to serve the added party).
The Clerk for the Magistrate Court can direct you to the necessary forms (and review them for completeness) but 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. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).
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 of the defendant is generally heard by the magistrate court at the same time as the plaintiff’s initial claim.
Filing Procedures for Hall Small Claims Court cases
The case begins with the plaintiff filing a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. 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:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if there is one)(Make sure this is correct as this is how the court will contact you if there are any issues)
- 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)
- 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)