McDuffie County Small Claims Court
Preparing 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.
- 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 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 documnt which can be completed by you and issued by the court which commands a person to appear in court and may require them to bring certain documents to court as well.
- Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
- Renter fails to pay rent or Owner seeks to evict renter
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- Failure of a merchant to deal with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
- Name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if the plaintiff has one)
- 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)
A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for McDuffie County.
Which County do I file my case in?
The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in McDuffie County, you may 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. To find the registered agent, contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817. 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 McDuffie County, file it here).
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee which is submitted along with the initial paperwork (the sworn statement). 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 will be an extra charge for the court to serve the additional party. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
The McDuffie 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).
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. 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 only thirty days to respond to the claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
What types of cases are filed in McDuffie County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
Filing Procedures for McDuffie Small Claims Court cases
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:
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. Sometimes, mediation is recommended or required before the judge will hear the case.
How do I pick a hearing date?
In McDuffie 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.
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 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.
Locations for McDuffie County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for McDuffie County is located at:
It can be reached by telephone at: 706-597-2618. The fax number is 706-595-2041. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate William B. Swan, Jr..
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 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 the parties cannot agree to settle the case, the the court will hear arguments presented by the plaintiff and the defendant. 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 all parties are finished presenting their evidence, the court will render 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.
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- Dismiss the case
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).
How does the defendant learn of the case?
After the case is filed, the clerk of the magistrate court 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 purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. Because of this, the disputes in this court are handled quickly and inexpensively.
How do I appeal 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 is heard in the state or superior court of McDuffie 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.