Lamar County Small Claims Court
Do I need to hire an attorney?
Is Lamar County the “proper” County for my case?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Lamar County, you can file the case in this County. 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 Lamar County, file it here).
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 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. The extra charge could is usually between $25-$35 (to serve the added party).
The Lamar County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give legal advice. A clerk would be able to review your forms to make sure there is a signature in the appropriate blanks but will not be able to tell you which party 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).
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:
- 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 street address of the defendant (this is what the court uses to serve 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)
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Lamar County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
- Renter does not or will not ay for damages to rental property
- 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
- 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.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
Prior to the hearing you should:
- 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 will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them.
- 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. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for Lamar County.
When a defendant fails to appear at the hearing or respond to the claim, the court can grant a default judgment. If it is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of damages asked for in the suit, plus 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. Once defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in “default.”
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 are agreeable to settling the case through mediation, a plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs. 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 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 the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- The court can 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.” 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 Much Time Does a Defendant Have to Answer?
After the case is filed, the clerk of the magistrate court serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
When will my hearing date be?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Lamar County. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
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 is heard in the state or superior court of Lamar 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.
Lamar County Court Location
The magistrate court for Lamar County is located at:121 Roberta Drive Barnesville, GA 30204
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate William A. Thomas. The telephone number for the court is: 770-358-5154. The fax number is 770-358-5214.
In Lamar County, small claims court is sometimes called magistrate court. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
Can the Defendant sue the Plaintiff?
Yes. 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. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.