What Happens at a 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. The court will hear evidence from the plaintiff first. The defendant puts on its side of the case once the plaintiff has finished. 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).
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 that files the complaint is called the plaintiff. The defendant is the term that refers to the party being sued in the complaint.
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). 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 acting as a defendant, it is allowed to be represented by certain members of the corporation.
Small Claims Court Trial Preparation
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. You should gather and bring anything that can support your side of the case including photographs, contracts, receipts, invoices, or other documents. 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). 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. 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 come to court, you will need to prepare and serve a subpoena for the witness’s attendance.
Service of a Morgan 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 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).
Beginning a Morgan County Small Claims Court Case
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 a written summary describing the circumstances of the plaintiff’s claim and explains why the plaintiff should be awarded the money. 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 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).
Filing a Small Claims Case in Morgan County Court
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.
What Types of Cases are handled in Morgan 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 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).
After the Small Claims Court Hearing
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.
Does a Morgan County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Morgan 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. Requesting a jury trial also has additional costs for the party making the request.
Is an Attorney Able to Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
Both plaintiffs and defendants are allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court or you can represent yourself. But, corporate entities that are the plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Morgan County Small Claims Court Location
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Morgan County Courthouse 300 W. State Street Jacksonville, IL 62650
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:P.O. Box 1120 Jacksonville, Illinois 62650-1165
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 217-243-5419
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 217-243-2009
Small Claims Court Morgan County
Small claims court is a special type of civil court where a party can file a case for $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.