Quitman County Small Claims CourtQuitman County Small Claim courts may also be referred to as Magistrate Courts. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
Preparing for the Hearing
The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Locations for Quitman County Small Claims Court
The Quitman County magistrate court is located at:
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Henry Balkcom. The telephone number for the court is: 229-334-2224. The fax number is 229-334-6826.
Appealing a Judgment
A party that is not satisfied with the judge’s decision can file an appeal of that judgment. The appeal will be heard in the state or superior court of Quitman County. Either party may request a jury trial for purposes of the appeal (something which is unavailable at the magistrate court level). The appeal needs to be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
What are the procedures for filing a case?
The plaintiff (or person filing the action) needs to file 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. At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- Name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if the plaintiff has one)
- 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)
- Copies of all relevant documents regarding the claim (for example, any contracts, receipts, etc.)
- 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.
- 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
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
Can I file my case in Quitman County?
If the defendant is a person, the case must be filed in the County where they live. 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 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 Quitman County, file it here).
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. 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. There is an extra charge for service for any additional defendants (if you are suing more than one person). This extra charge could be between $25 and $35.
The Quitman 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. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
When a defendant fails to appear at the hearing or respond to the claim, the court can grant a default judgment. If a default judgment is entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with 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. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Quitman County. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
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 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 the parties cannot agree to settle the case, the the court will hear arguments presented by the plaintiff and the defendant. 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:
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).
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 are able to file the case on your own completely without the assistance of 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. Sometimes, mediation is recommended or required before the judge will hear the case.
What types of cases are filed in Quitman County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
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. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
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. The counterclaim will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.