Who can be a plaintiff in small claims court?
Any individual or corporation doing business in Illinois can both sue and be sued in small claims court. If someone is under eighteen, the court may appoint a guardian to act on behalf of the minor. The court does require that any corporation acting as a plaintiff in small claims court be represented by an attorney. However, if a corporation is sued, it can be represented by certain officials at the company including an officer, manager, or registered agent.
Champaign County Small Claims Court Location
In Champaign County, Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Champaign County Courthouse 101 E. Main St. Urbana, IL 61801
The court’s website is here. The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:101 East Main Street Urbana, Illinois 61801-2736
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 217-384-3725
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 217-384-3879
Champaign County Small Claims Court
Small claims court in Champaign County is a unique type of court where a plaintiff can file a case in an amount of $10,000 or less. Rules and procedures for small claims court have been simplified to allow cases to be tried faster and by people who are not attorneys.
What kind of cases are handled in small claims court?
Illinois restricts the types of cases that can be filed in small claims court to the following:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury cases
- repossession of personal property leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment actions brought against debtors
A small claims court can only award a party $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
Am I Able to Have an Attorney Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
You can represent yourself in small claims court or hire an attorney to represent you. But, corporate entities that are the plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
What County Should a Small Claims Court Case be filed in?
The law in Illinois mandates that a case be filed in the county where (1.) one of the defendants live or (2.) the county where the incident or transaction involved in the case occurred. For example, if the case involved property damage, the case could be filed in the county where the property is located.
Service of a Champaign County Small Claims Court Defendant
After a complaint is filed in court, it needs to be served on the party. Serving an individual is easy (if an address is known). Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. In the State of Illinois, a corporate entity can be served on a corporation’s office or its registered agent. The Illinois Secretary of State website has additional information to allow you to search for addresses related to corporate entities and registered agents.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Champaign County
Before a party files a case in small claims court, it is recommended to contact the party directly by sending a demand letter. A demand letter is simply a letter spelling out clearly and concisely what your case is and why you feel you are entitled to monetary damages. Sending a demand letter is recommended because filing a case and resolving it in court often takes time. Also, collecting funds after prevailing in court can take more time and is not guaranteed. If there is a chance you can resolve the case without filing in small claims court, it is a worthwhile step to take. Finally, a demand letter allows the plaintiff a chance to explain in clear words the facts surrounding the issue (which is something the plaintiff will have to do in the complaint which is filed with the court).
Small Claims Court Trial Preparation
A party preparing for a small claims court trial should prepare the case to make a clear, understandable presentation to a judge. Bring documents, photographs, contracts, receipts, or anything else that supports your position. Preparing a short chronology of the events in your case is helpful. The court will pay particular attention to details including times, dates, value of damages so it is critical to have these details noted and documented ahead of time (and even including them in your complaint). Witnesses who support your side of the case should also be invited to court to provide testimony during the trial. Ensure the witness is aware of the exact date, time, and location of your small claims court case. If the person refuses to come to court, you may need to take steps to issue a subpoena for them to attend.
What happens after the Small Claims Court Trial?
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it will issue a judgment of monetary damages. The law in Illinois requires that an appeal from the judgment be filed within thirty days of the date the judgment is entered by the court.
What to Expect at a Champaign County Small Claims Court Trial
At a bench trial (or trial in front of a judge), the judge will listen to both the plaintiff and the defendant. The court will also listen to any witness testimony and exhibits (documents) provided by either side. Plaintiffs present their side of the case first. Defendants present their case once the plaintiffs have finished presenting its case. It is imperative that you speak slowly and clearly for the judge to be able to understand your side of the case. It is normal for all people to be nervous when speaking in public (let alone in front of a judge) so it may be helpful to practice talking about your case in front of another person (spouse, friend, neighbor).
Does a Champaign County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Champaign County, a small claims trial may be in front of a jury or a judge. It is highly recommended that a party consult with an attorney before asking for a jury trial. Jury trials (in front of six or twelve people) are much more complex than a bench trial (trial in front of a judge) and require more preparation. Additionally, a jury trial costs additional money for the party requesting it.
How to File a Small Claims Court Case
To begin a small claims case, the party needs to file a document with the court clerk called a complaint. A blank complaint can be obtained by contacting the court clerk’s office. The party that files the complaint is called the plaintiff. The defendant is the term that refers to the party being sued in the complaint.