Johnson County Small Claims Court
In Johnson County, small claims court allows a plaintiff to bring a case if the amount is $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 County Should a Small Claims Court Case be filed in?
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 the case involved property damage, the case could be filed in the county where the property is located.
Can I have an attorney represent me in Small Claims Court?
You can represent yourself in small claims court or hire an attorney to represent you. However, corporations acting as plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Who can sue in small claims court?
Small claims court can be used by any resident of Illinois or Illinois corporation (both as a plaintiff or a defendant). If an individual is under the age of majority (18), the court may appoint a guardian. A corporation is not required to be represented by an attorney in small claims court. If a defendant is a corporate entity, only certain officers or members of the corporation are allowed to represent it.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Johnson County
Before a party files a case in small claims court, it is recommended to contact the party directly by 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. Additionally, collection of funds after winning a judgment is not a guarantee. If there is a chance you can resolve the case without filing in small claims court, it is a worthwhile step to take. Drafting a demand letter also allows the plaintiff to explain the case in a brief manner (which has to be done when the complaint is filed in the court).
Filing a Small Claims Court Case
The plaintiff needs to file a document called a complaint with the court clerk. 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 that the plaintiff is trying to recover money from is called the defendant.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Trial
At a trial in front of a judge, the court determines the facts of the case after listening to the evidence provided by both the plaintiff and defendant. The judge will also listen to any testimony from any witnesses and examine any exhibits (documents and photographs) provided by the parties. The court will hear evidence from the plaintiff first. The defendant presents their case after the plaintiff has concluded their presentation. 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).
Johnson County Small Claims Court Location
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:401 Court Street Suite A Vienna, Illinois 62995-0517
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-658-4751
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-658-2908
After your Small Claims Court Case
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.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
The most important thing about preparing for your trial is the ability to explain your side of the case in a clear concise way to the judge (or jury) so they can understand. Bring documents, photographs, contracts, receipts, or anything else that supports your position. It is recommended to prepare a short chronology of events or description of all of the facts surrounding your case. Details including dates, times, and values of damages or items purchased will be important for the court to take note of (and should have been included in your initial complaint if you are the plaintiff). You should also take steps to secure the attendance of any witnesses that have information to help your case. It is important the witness is aware of the location of the court and the date and time of the trial in order to be able to appear in person. If the witness refuses to attend the small claims court trial, then a subpoena for the witness’s attendance may be necessary.
Who hears my case in Johnson County Small Claims Court
Johnson County allows for a small claims court case to be either a bench (judge) or jury trial. If you are seriously considering requesting a jury trial, it is recommended that you speak with and seek advice from an attorney before making that request. 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.
Serving a Party in Johnson County Small Claims Court
After a complaint is filed, the next step is for the plaintiff to affect service of the complaint on the defendant(s). If the party is an individual, service is easy. However, it can be more difficult finding a way to serve a corporate entity. In Illinois, a corporation can be served on either an office of the corporation or its registered agent. This information can be obtained online at the Illinois Secretary of State website.
Types of Small Claims Court Cases
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
- 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).