Locations for Small Claims Court in Franklin County
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Franklin County Courthouse Public Courthouse Square Benton, IL 62812
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:P.O. Box 485 Benton, Illinois 62812-2264
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-439-2011
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-439-4119
Service of a Franklin County Small Claims Court Defendant
After a complaint is filed in court, it needs to be served on the party. An individual can be served at their address. However, it can be more difficult finding a way to serve a corporate entity. 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.
What happens after the Small Claims Court Trial?
If the court finds for the plaintiff, the court is able to issue a judgment which awards monetary damages to the plaintiff. 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.
Who hears my case in Franklin County Small Claims Court
In Franklin 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. A jury trial is much more complex and difficult for a person to represent themselves in and requires substantially more preparation. Additionally, a jury trial costs additional money for the party requesting it.
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 an individual is under the age of majority (18), the court may appoint a guardian. If a corporation sues in small claims court, they will need to be represented by an attorney. If a defendant is a corporate entity, only certain officers or members of the corporation are allowed to represent it.
Can I file a case in Franklin County?
Illinois law requires a small claims court case to be filed in the county where one of the defendants live or in the county where the incident or transaction involved in the case occurred. For example, if your case involves a car accident and the car accident occurs in Franklin County, you can file the case here.
Small Claims Court Franklin County
In Franklin County, small claims court allows a plaintiff to bring a case if the amount is $10,000 or less. Small claims court in Franklin County uses simpler rules and procedures than regular civil court which allows cases to be tried or resolved quicker and by people who are not attorneys.
What Happens at a 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. The defendant puts on its side of the case once the plaintiff has finished. 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).
What kind of cases are handled in small claims court?
In Illinois, only certain types of cases are handled in small claims court:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury
- repossessions of personal property that was 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).
Beginning a Franklin County Small Claims Court Case
Prior to a party filing a case, you are encouraged to contact the defendant by drafting and sending a demand letter. Demand letters are a written summary explaining the facts surrounding your case and why you are entitled to money (which should be drafted in a polite, clear, concise way). 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. Additionally, putting down your case in clear words is something a plaintiff will have to do anyways when a complaint is filed (and certainly done in preparation for the trial).
Is an Attorney Able to Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
You can represent yourself in small claims court or hire an attorney to represent you. However, when a corporate entity is the plaintiff in a case, it is required to be represented by an attorney.
How do I file a case in small claims court?
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 through the court clerk’s office which is located inside of the courthouse. The party filing the complaint is called the plaintiff. The party being sued in the complaint is called the defendant.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
The key to preparing a case for trial is to be able to explain your side of the case in a way that is easy for the judge (or jury) to understand. 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). If there are any people who observed anything in your case, it is important to invite them to court to provide testimony at the trial. Ensure the witness is aware of the exact date, time, and location of your small claims court case. If the witness refuses to come to court, you will need to prepare and serve a subpoena for the witness’s attendance.