Spalding County Small Claims Court
Appealing a Judgment
If a party is not satisfied with the court’s decision, that party may file an appeal. The appeal will be heard in the state or superior court of Spalding 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.
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. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.
What types of cases are filed in Spalding County Small Claims Court?
Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Spalding County Small Claims court:
- Renter does not or will not ay for damages to rental property
- 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
- A mechanic charges for work not completed, unnecessary repairs, or poor workmanship.
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.
Defendant’s Time to Answer
After the case is filed the court clerk serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
Filing Procedures for Spalding 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:
- 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).
- Include the name and street address of the defendant (this is what the court will use to serve 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)
- 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)
Do I need to hire an attorney?
You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You are able to file the case on your own completely without the assistance of an attorney. Small Claims court judges are heard and decided without a jury. 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.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your 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).
- Contact any witnesses you need to call to prove your case and confirm that they will appear on the hearing date
- If you need to bring in a witness to prove your case and the witness is not being cooperative with you, prepare a subpoena.
- If you need additional documents for your case, you can issue a subpoena for those documents to obtain documents from other parties.
- A subpoena is a command from the court for a person or documents to appear at a certain time and date to give testimony or produce evidence. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office.
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
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 hear evidence and provide an opportunity for both the plaintiff and the defendant to introduce their evidence (and allow each side to comment on the evidence introduced by the other party). 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.
The court has several options if the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing:
- Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- 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.” The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
How do I pick a hearing date?
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Spalding County. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
Can I file my case in Spalding County?
If the defendant is a person, the case must be filed in the County where they live. If you are suing a corporation, you must file your case 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 you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Spalding County, you can file here.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee which is submitted along with the initial paperwork (the sworn statement). This filing fee includes the cost for the clerk to serve one defendant. The actual filing fee varies amongst counties but is usually between $45 and $55. If an additional defendant is named in the action, there is an extra charge for serving 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. 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.
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
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 it is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of damages asked for in the suit, plus 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 a 30 day window to respond to plaintiff’s claim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
Spalding County Court Location
The Spalding County magistrate court is located at:132 East Solomon Street Griffin, GA 30223
The court can be reached by telephone at: 770-467-4336 and fax at 770-467-0081. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Rita L. Cavanaugh.