Jasper County Small Claims Court
How does the defendant learn of the case?
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.
Do I need to hire an attorney?
We cannot tell you whether or not you should hire an attorney. However, you may hire an attorney if you wish, but are not required to do so. You can file the case on your own (without retaining 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.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your 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 you need to bring in a witness to prove your case and the witness is not being cooperative with you, 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 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. You can obtain a subpoena from the Jasper County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
How do I pick a hearing date?
The court will select a hearing date after the defendant files an answer to the claim. The date for the hearing is generally 15 to 30 days after the defendant files his or her answer.
What’s a default judgment?
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 a default judgment is entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with court costs. If the plaintiff is asking for non-monetary damages (like property), the court has to conduct a separate hearing to determine the dollar amount of the damages. The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the caim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
How can I file a claim?
The case begins with the plaintiff filing a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. The sworn statement simply spells out the claims made against the defenant and includes the facts on which the claim is based. At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- 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)
- Name and strees address of the defendant
- The amount of money the plaintiff is requesting
- 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)
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
Locations for Jasper County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Jasper County is located at:
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Kenneth G. Jackson. The telephone number for the court is: 706-468-4909. The fax number is 706-468-4928.
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 in the state or superior court of Jasper County. For the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (remember you aren’t entitled to a jury trial in magistrate court). Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the judge’s decision.
What types of cases are filed in Jasper 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
- Tenant fails to pay rent and landlord wants to evict tenant
- Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund 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
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
- The court can allow defendant to put on his or her evidence and then issue a decision without hearing from the plaintiff.
- Postpone the case until a later date
- The court can dismiss the case
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against the Plaintiff?
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 it is related to the initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is les than $15,000. The counterclaim will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.
Can I file my case in Jasper County?
If the defendant is a person, the case must be filed in the County where they live. If the person you are suing is a corporation, the case must be filed 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 the business you are suing is unincorporated, you should file the case in the County where the business is physically located.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. The filing fee varies by each county but is 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 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, 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. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.
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 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 both parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). 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 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).