Talbot County Small Claims Court
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 entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with 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 only thirty days to respond to the caim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
Talbot County Court Location
The magistrate court for Talbot County is located at:PO Box 157 Talbotton, GA 31827
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate John Terry. The telephone number for the court is: 706-665-8866. The fax number is 706-665-8240.
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. 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)
- The amount of money the plaintiff is requesting
- 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)
How do I pick a hearing date?
The court will select a hearing date after the defendant files an answer to the claim. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
Procedures for the Hearing
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:
- allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- dismiss the case.
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).
Preparing for the Hearing
We recommend taking the following steps to prepare for your 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.
- 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.
Which County do I file my case in?
The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Talbot County, you may 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. 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 Talbot County, you can file here.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. 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). The extra charge could is usually between $25-$35 (to serve the added party).
The Talbot 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. Also, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win.
Can I 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). 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.
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. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
Types of Cases Filed in Talbot County Small Claims Court
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
- Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
- A landlord wants to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent
- 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
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
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 by either the state or superior court in the 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.
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against the Plaintiff?
The defendant is able to issue a claim against 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 of the defendant is generally heard by the magistrate court at the same time as the plaintiff’s initial claim.
Talbot 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. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.