Jones County Small Claims Court
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 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)
- Name and strees address of the defendant
- Include the amount of money you are asking for as the plaintiff
- Explain why the defendant is being sued (and why the defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
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 are able to file the case on your own completely without the assistance of 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.
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. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
The magistrate or small claims court was designed so that disputes under a certain amount ($15,000) could be handled informally. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
When will my hearing date be?
In Jones 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 prepare for the hearing?
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.
- 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.
What’s a default judgment?
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 a default judgment is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to what he or she asked for in the action and 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. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
Procedures for the Hearing
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 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 also allow the plaintiff and defendant to question or dispute each other’s evidence during the hearing. When both parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). The judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts of the case.
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.
- Postpone the case until a later date
- The court can dismiss the case
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment against the defendant. 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).
What types of cases are filed in Jones 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
- Landlord fails to return the security deposit to the tenant
- Failure of a merchant to deal with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to make payments on a loan
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
Jones County Court Location
The magistrate court for Jones County is located at:P.O. Box 1090 Gray, GA 31032
It can be reached by telephone at: 478-986-6668. The fax number is 478-986-1715. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate J. Mike Greene.
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.
Which County do I file my case in?
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. (Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817 to find out if a business is a corproation and the name and address of the registered agent). 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 Jones County, file it here).
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. 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 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, 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).
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 is heard in the state or superior court of Jones 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.
Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.