Does a LaSalle County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
LaSalle County allows for a small claims court case to be either a bench (judge) or jury trial. You are encouraged to consult with an attorney prior to requesting 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. Also, if you are the party making the request for a jury trial, you will incur additional costs associated with the jury trial.
LaSalle County Small Claims Court Location
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:LaSalle County Governmental Center 707 Etna Road Ottawa, IL 61350
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:119 W. Madison Street Room 201 Ottawa, Illinois 61350-0617
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 815-434-8671
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 815-433-9198
Can I file a case in LaSalle County?
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.
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. Before the trial date, you should gather any pieces of evidence that will help you explain your side of the case including any contracts, receipts, photographs, or other documents. It is recommended to prepare a short chronology of events or description of all of the facts surrounding your case. 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). You should also take steps to secure the attendance of any witnesses that have information to help your case. Ensure the witness is aware of the exact date, time, and location of your small claims court case. If the witness refuses to attend the small claims court trial, then a subpoena for the witness’s attendance may be necessary.
Small Claims Court LaSalle County
Small claims court is a special type of civil court where a party can file a case for $10,000 or less. Small claims court has much simpler rules and procedures and is designed to try cases faster.
After your Small Claims Court Case
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the judge can issue an order or judgment awarding the plaintiff 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 Types of Cases are handled in LaSalle County Small Claims Court?
In Illinois, only certain types of cases are handled in small claims court:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury cases
- repossessions of personal property that was leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment actions brought against debtors
The most amount of money that a court can award in small claims court is $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
Who can Bring a Case in LaSalle County Small Claims Court?
Small claims court can be used by any resident of Illinois or Illinois corporation (both as a plaintiff or a defendant). The court may require the appointment of a guardian for those parties under the age of 18. 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.
How to File a Small Claims Court Case
A small claims court case begins with a party filing a document called the complaint. A blank complaint can be obtained through the court clerk’s office which is located inside of the courthouse. 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.
How do I serve a party?
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. 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. A plaintiff should visit the Illinois Secretary of State website to obtain the addresses for the corporate entity (and registered agents).
Is an Attorney Able to Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
Plaintiffs and Defendants can either represent themselves or use an attorney. However, corporations acting as plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case
It is strongly recommended to send a demand letter to the defendant before filing a small claims court case. 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). The demand letter is recommended because resolving a case through small claims court (even though quicker and simpler than a regular civil case) still takes time. Also, collecting funds after prevailing in court can take more time and is not guaranteed. If it is possible to settle your case before filing with the court, it is an option worth exploring. 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).
What to Expect at a LaSalle County Small Claims Court Trial
In a court trial, the judge will decide the facts of your case and will listen to the evidence provided by the plaintiff and the defendant. The judge will also listen to any testimony from any witnesses and examine any exhibits (documents and photographs) provided by the parties. Plaintiffs present their side of the case first. Defendants present their case once the plaintiffs have finished presenting its case. It is important to speak clearly and slowly so that the judge can understand you. Normally, people will naturally be inclined to be nervous when speaking in public (and in front of a court), so it is recommended you practice discussing your side of the case in front of another person (spouse, relative, neighbor, friend) so you get more comfortable speaking about it.