Walton County Small Claims Court
Filing Procedures for Walton 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 simply spells out the claims made against the defenant and includes the facts on which the claim is based. The sworn statement should usually include the following:
- Name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if the plaintiff has one)
- Include the name and street address of the defendant (this is what the court will use 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)
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. 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). 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 appeal a judgment?
If you are not happy with the court’s decision (and generally at least one party, sometimes both, are not satisfied with the judgment), the party may file an appeal (or ask a higher court to review the judgment). The appeal will be heard in the state or superior court of Walton 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.
What types of cases are filed in Walton County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in 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
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
Walton County Court Location
The Walton County magistrate court is located at:303 S. Hammond Dr., Ste 116 Monroe, GA 30655
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Mike Burke. The telephone number for the court is: 770-267-1349. The fax number is 770-266-1512.
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
Some counties require the parties to attempt to resolve the case through mediation before the court hears the case (assuming the mediation is unsuccessful). 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 the parties are agreeable to settling the case through mediation, a plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs. If mediation is not successful, 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 all parties are finished presenting their evidence, the court will render a decision. The judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts 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
- 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).
Small Claims courts are also called Magistrate Courts in Walton County. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
The magistrate or small claims court was designed so that disputes under a certain amount ($15,000) could be handled informally. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
Is Walton County the “proper” County for my case?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Walton 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. (Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817 to find out if a business is a corproation and the name and address of the registered agent). If you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Walton County, you can file 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. 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 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. 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. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).
How do I prepare for the hearing?
Prior to the hearing you should:
- 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 is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, prepare a subpoena.
- 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.
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.
When will my hearing date be?
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.
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 it is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of damages asked for in the suit, plus 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.”
The defendant is able to issue a claim against the plaintiff. This is called a counterclaim. The defendant can file this against the plaintiff’s original claim if the defendant’s claim is related to the plaintiff’s initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is less than $15,000. The counterclaim will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.
Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.