McIntosh County Small Claims Court
McIntosh County Court Location
The magistrate court for McIntosh County is located at:P.O. Drawer 459 Darien, GA 31305
The court can be reached by telephone at: 912-437-4888 and fax at 912-437-6635. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Teresa K. Jennings.
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. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.
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. 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 claim. Once defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in “default.”
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 will be heard in the state or superior court of McIntosh 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.
How does the defendant learn of the case?
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. After that, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer the claim.
When will my hearing date be?
In McIntosh 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.
Can I hire an attorney?
Can I 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). 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). Sometimes, mediation is recommended or required before the judge will hear the case.
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 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 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 fails to appear at the hearing, the court may:
- The court can allow defendant to put on his or her evidence and then issue a decision without hearing from the plaintiff.
- The court can continue the case to 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. The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
How should I prepare for the hearing?
Prior to the hearing you should:
- 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 is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, prepare a subpoena.
- 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.
- 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)
- Amount of money plaintiff is seeking (sometimes called damages)
- Detail why the defendant is being sued (and why this defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
- 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
- Landlord fails to return the security deposit to the tenant
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.
A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office.
Can I file my case in McIntosh County?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in McIntosh 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. To find the registered agent, 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.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee which is submitted along with the initial paperwork (the sworn statement). 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. 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 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. 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. Also, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win.
Filing Procedures for McIntosh Small Claims Court cases
The case begins with the plaintiff filing a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. A sworn statement states the claims made against the defendant and includes the facts giving rise to the claim. The sworn statement should include the following details:
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.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in McIntosh County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court: