Wilkinson County Small Claims Court

Wilkinson County Small Claims Court

Wilkinson County Small Claims Court

Wilkinson County Small Claims Court

In Wilkinson County, small claims court is sometimes called magistrate court. If you are unable to settle a dispute with a person or business, the matter can be filed in magistrate court.
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. Because of this, the disputes in this court are handled quickly and inexpensively.

What types of cases are filed in Wilkinson 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
  • Renter fails to pay rent or Owner seeks to evict renter
  • Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
  • A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
  • Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
  • 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 should I prepare for the hearing?

    The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:

    • Collect all the documents you need for your case. Also prepare extra copies for the judge and other party (or parties)
    • Speak with all witnesses you intend to call to support your case. You should confirm they are available and willing to appear on the hearing date.
    • If a witness is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, 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 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 of the Magistrate Court for Wilkinson County.

      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. The sworn statement should include the following details:

      • 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
      • Brief, succint statement detailing why the defendant is being sued (include dates of all relevant events)
      • 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)

      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. The counterclaim of the defendant is generally heard by the magistrate court at the same time as the plaintiff’s initial claim.

      When will my hearing date be?

      The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Wilkinson County. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.

      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 the parties agree to settle the case out of court, the plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs (costs for filing the case, serving defendants, any subpoenas issues, etc.). 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 parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). The court may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, both, or none of the parties depending on what the facts of the case warrant.
      If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the court may:

      • Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
      • continue the case.
      • 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.” It is strongly recommended you attend the hearing whether you are the plaintiff or defendant (regardless of whether you believe the case to be strong or weak).

      Wilkinson County Court Location

      The Wilkinson County magistrate court is located at:

      P.O. Box 201
      Irwinton, GA 31042

      It can be reached by telephone at: 478-946-2222. The fax number is 478-946-3810. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Vivian L. Cummings.

      How does the defendant learn of the case?

      After the case is filed the court clerk serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. After that, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer the claim.

      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 a default judgment is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to what he or she asked for in the action and 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. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.

      Do I need to 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 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. For the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (remember you aren’t entitled to a jury trial in magistrate court). Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the judge’s decision.

      Is Wilkinson County the “proper” County for my case?

      The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Wilkinson 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. (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 the business you are suing is unincorporated, you should file the case in the County where the business is physically located.
      The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. 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 is an extra charge for serving the additional party. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
      The Clerk for the Magistrate Court can direct you to the necessary forms (and review them for completeness) but 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. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).

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