Jeff Davis County Small Claims Court
Locations for Jeff Davis County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Jeff Davis County is located at:P.O. Box 568 Hazlehurst, GA 31539
It can be reached by telephone at: 912-375-6630. The fax number is 912-375-6629. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Chris A. Davenport.
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 in the state or superior court of Jeff Davis 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 must be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
Which County do I file my case in?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Jeff Davis County, you can 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.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. 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. There is an extra charge for service for any additional defendants (if you are suing more than one person). The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
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. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).
Types of Cases Filed in Jeff Davis County Small Claims Court
Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Jeff Davis 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 fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
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 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 will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.
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.
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 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. 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 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 defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- Postpone the case until a later date
- Dismiss the case
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.” 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).
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
In Jeff Davis 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.
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 a 30 day window to respond to plaintiff’s claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:
- Ensure you have all copies of any documents you need for the case. You should make at least two additional sets of copies (one for the court and one for the other party).
- Contact any witnesses you need to call to prove your case and confirm that they will appear on the hearing date
- If a witness will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them.
- 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 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.
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 simply spells out the claims made against the defenant and includes the facts on which the claim is based. The sworn statement should include the following details:
- Name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if the plaintiff has one)
- 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)
- Detail why the defendant is being sued (and why this 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)
Can I hire an attorney?
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.
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.