Murray County Small Claims Court
How do I pick a hearing date?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Murray County. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
Appealing 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 Murray 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.
What’s a default judgment?
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 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 a 30 day window to respond to plaintiff’s claim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
Murray County Court Location
The magistrate court for Murray County is located at:121 N. 4th Ave Chatsworth, GA 30705
The court can be reached by telephone at: 706-517-1400 and fax at 706-695-7525. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate L. Gale Buckner.
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. In the event the mediation does not resolve the claim, 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 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:
- The court can allow defendant to put on his or her evidence and then issue a decision without hearing from the plaintiff.
- 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).
Filing Procedures for Murray 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 describes the charges made against the defendant (the person or business that is being sued by the plaintiff). The sworn statement should usually include the following:
- 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
- Detail why the defendant is being sued (and why this 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)
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
Prior to the hearing you should:
- 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 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.
- A tenant refuses to pay for damages which are more than the security deposit
- Renter fails to pay rent or Owner seeks to evict renter
- Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to make payments on a loan
- 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.
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.
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). 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. Mediation is a tool that is sometimes used to help resolve a case without a trial. Some counties offer this as a service, and some counties require a case be sent to mediation prior to it being heard at a trial.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Murray County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
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. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against 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. The counterclaim will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.
Can I file my case in Murray County?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Murray 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 you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Murray County, you can file here.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. This filing fee includes the cost for the 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. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
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. 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).