Heard County Small Claims Court
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
Some counties require you to go to mediation before a hearing in front of a judge. Mediation is an attempt to try and settle the case without a hearing. Even if the parties are agreeable to settling the case through mediation, a plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs. 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 judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts of the case.
The court has several options if the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing:
- Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- Postpone the case until a later date
- Dismiss the case
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment against the defendant. 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 prepare for the hearing?
The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:
- Make sure you have copies of all the documents you need for your case. Prepare copies to provide to the opposing party and the court.
- 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 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 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.
- 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)
- 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.)
- Renter does not or will not ay for damages to rental property
- Tenant fails to pay rent and landlord wants to evict tenant
- Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office.
Appealing a Judgment
If a party is not satisfied with the court’s decision, that party may file an appeal. The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Heard County. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). The appeal needs to be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
What are the procedures for filing a case?
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:
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. After that, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer the claim.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
The court will select a hearing date after the defendant files an answer to the claim. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
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 the defendant’s claim is related to the plaintiff’s initial claim and the amount asked for 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.
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.
Types of Cases Filed in Heard County Small Claims Court
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
Can I file my case in Heard County?
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. 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 defendant is an unincorporated business (fancy for is not a corporation), file the case in the county where the business is physically located (ie. if the business is located in Heard County, file it here).
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 will be an extra charge for the court to serve the additional party. This extra charge could be between $25 and $35.
The Heard County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give legal advice. For example, the court clerk would be able to review your completed forms to make sure your signature is in the appropriate blanks but is not able to tell you which defendant you should sue. Also, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win.
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 a 30 day window to respond to plaintiff’s claim. Once defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in “default.”
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). Small Claims court judges are heard and decided without a jury. 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.
Locations for Heard County Small Claims Court
The Heard County magistrate court is located at:
It can be reached by telephone at: 706-675-3002. The fax number is 706-675-6059. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Brenda L. Jennings.