Is an Attorney Able to Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
Plaintiffs and Defendants can either represent themselves or use an attorney. But, corporate entities that are the plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Small Claims Court Marion County
In Marion 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 Types of Cases are handled in Marion County 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
- repossession of personal property leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment case against a debtor
The most amount of money that a court can award in small claims court is $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
Does a Marion County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Marion County, a small claims trial may be in front of a jury or a judge. 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. 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. Requesting a jury trial also has additional costs for the party making the request.
Service of a Marion County Small Claims Court Defendant
After a complaint is filed in court, it needs to be served on the party. 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. 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 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. The plaintiff presents their side 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. 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).
Beginning a Marion 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. 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. A demand letter is ideal because it takes time for a case to make its way through the courts toward a resolution. Additionally, collection of any court award takes additional time and is never guaranteed. Drafting and sending a demand letter allows for both parties to explore the possibility of a settlement even before a case is filed. 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).
Small Claims Court Locations for Marion County
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:P.O. Box 130 Salem, Illinois 62881-0130
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-548-3856
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-740-0118
After the Small Claims Court Hearing
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.
Can I file a case in Marion 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 Marion County, you can file the case here.
Filing a Small Claims Court Case
A small claims court case begins with a party filing a document called the complaint. A small claims complaint can be obtained at the court clerk’s office. The party filing the complaint to begin the court case is called the plaintiff. The party that the plaintiff is trying to recover money from is called the defendant.
Who can be a plaintiff in small claims court?
An Illinois corporation or any resident in Illinois can use small claims court to file a claim (and be sued as well). 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.
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. 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. Preparing a short chronology of the events in your case is helpful. Dates, times, and monetary values are extremely important details for the court to take note of. 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 person refuses to come to court, you may need to take steps to issue a subpoena for them to attend.