Lee County Small Claims Court

Lee County Small Claims Court

When will my hearing date be?

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.
Lee County Small Claims Court

Lee County Small Claims Court

Small Claims courts are also called Magistrate Courts in Lee County. If you are unable to settle a dispute with a person or business, the matter can be filed in magistrate court.
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.

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.

Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Lee County Small Claims Court?

Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Lee 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
  • Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
  • A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
  • A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
  • Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
  • A mechanic charges for work not completed, unnecessary repairs, or poor workmanship.

Appealing a Judgment

If you are not happy with the court’s decision (and generally at least one party, sometimes both, are not satisfied with the judgment), the party may file an appeal (or ask a higher court to review the judgment). The appeal will be heard in the state or superior court of Lee County. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the judge’s decision.

Can the Defendant sue the Plaintiff?

Yes. 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. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.

Can I file my case in Lee County?

If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Lee 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 you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Lee County, you can file 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. Filing fees vary county to county but are generally 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 Clerk for the Magistrate Court can direct you to the necessary forms (and review them for completeness) but is prohibited by law from giving 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 hearing procedures?

Some counties require you to go to mediation before a hearing in front of a judge. 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 mediation is not successful, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court takes in evidence and provides for all parties for an opportunity to present their case. When both (or all parties) are done presenting evidence, the judge will issue a decision. The court could award damages to the plaintiff, the defendant, or both depending on the merits 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
  • 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 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. After that, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer the claim.

Lee County Court Location

The magistrate court for Lee County is located at:

P.O. Box 522
Leesburg, GA 31763

The court can be reached by telephone at: 229-759-6016 and fax at 229-759-3303. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate James (Jim) R. Thurman.

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:

  • As the plaintiff, include your name, address, and telephone number (and your attorney’s if you retain one)(This is to ensure the court and other parties can contact you should the need arise).
  • 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)

Do I need to hire an attorney?

In County cases, you may hire an attorney to represent you but are not required to do so. You can file the case on your own (without retaining an attorney). All cases are tried and heard before a judge, without a jury. You should remember that the procedures and rules for small claims court cases are designed so that a party should not need to have to retain an expensive attorney in order for their case to be effectively presented. 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:

  • 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.
  • Communicate with any witnesses you intend to call to prove your case. Confirm they are available on the day of the hearing.
  • If a witness is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, 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. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for Lee County.

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