Richmond County Small Claims Court

Richmond County Small Claims Court

How do I appeal 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 Richmond County. Either party may request a jury trial for purposes of the appeal (something which is unavailable at the magistrate court level). The appeal must be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.

What are the hearing procedures?

Some counties require you to go to mediation before a hearing in front of a judge. Mediation is a dispute resolution tool designed to try and resolve the case by meeting with an independent third party who can evaluate the case and try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to all 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 (or all parties) are done presenting evidence, the judge will issue a decision. The judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts of the case.
If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the court may:

  • allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
  • Postpone the case until a later date
  • The court can dismiss the case

If the defendant does not show at the hearing, the court has the authority to grant a default judgment against the defendant. The name comes from the fact that because the defendant does not show, 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).

Default Judgments

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 claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.

How can I file a claim?

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. At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:

  • 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)

Richmond County Court Location

The Richmond County magistrate court is located at:

735 James Brown Blvd Ste 4104
Augusta, GA 30901

It can be reached by telephone at: 706-821-2516. The fax number is 706-821-2381. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate William D. Jennings, III.

What types of cases are filed in Richmond County Small Claims Court?

Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Richmond County Small Claims court:

  • Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
  • Tenant fails to pay rent and landlord wants to evict tenant
  • 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
  • A mechanic charges for work not completed, unnecessary repairs, or poor workmanship.

Defendant’s Time 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. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.

Can I 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?

The following steps are recommended to prepare for the 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 will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them.
  • 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 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 subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office.

    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.

    Can the Defendant sue 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.

    Richmond County Small Claims Court

    Richmond County Small Claims Court

    In Richmond County, small claims court is sometimes called magistrate court. These courts are used to resolve disputes if the parties are unable to resolve the dispute.
    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.

    Can I file my case in Richmond County?

    If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Richmond County, you can file the case in this County. If you are suing a corporation, you must file your case 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 you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Richmond County, you can file 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 Richmond County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give 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. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.

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