Screven County Small Claims Court
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 this against the plaintiff’s original claim if it is related to the initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is les than $15,000. The counterclaim of the defendant is generally heard by the magistrate court at the same time as the plaintiff’s initial claim.
How should I prepare for the hearing?
We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your hearing:
- Collect all the documents you need for your case. Also prepare extra copies for the judge and other party (or parties)
- Contact any witnesses you need to call to prove your case and confirm that they will appear on the hearing date
- 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.
- 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
- Landlord fails to return the security deposit to the tenant
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office.
Can I file my case in Screven County?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Screven 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. In order to find the registered agent for service of process, contact the 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 Screven County, file it 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. 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 Screven 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.
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. 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. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
Can I hire an attorney for my Screven County Small Claims Court case?
You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You are able to file the case on your own, without the assistance of an attorney (again, the process was designed to be inexpensive). 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). 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.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Screven County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
Screven County Court Location
The Screven County magistrate court is located at:
It can be reached by telephone at: 912-564-7375. The fax number is 912-564-5618. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate James M. Griner, Jr..
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 Screven County. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). The appeal needs to be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
Filing Procedures for Screven Small Claims Court cases
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 describes the charges made against the defendant (the person or business that is being sued by the plaintiff). At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if there is one)(Make sure this is correct as this is how the court will contact you if there are any issues)
- Name and strees address of the defendant
- Include the amount of money you are asking for as the plaintiff
- Explain why the defendant is being sued (and why the defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all relevant documents regarding the claim (for example, any contracts, receipts, etc.)
- Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- Dismiss the case
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 entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with 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 a 30 day window to respond to plaintiff’s claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
What are the hearing procedures?
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 an attempt to try and settle the case without a hearing. Even if mediation is successful, a plaintiff can still seek to recover court costs. If mediation is not successful, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court takes in evidence and provides for all parties for an opportunity to present their case. When both (or all parties) are done presenting evidence, the judge will issue 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:
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.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
In Screven 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.