Resolving a Case without a Hearing
Frequently, a court may attempt to resolve a case without an actual hearing. This can be done through a process called mediation. During mediation, a mediator (which is an unbiased third party oftentimes with specific training on dispute resolution) will meet with both parties (separately or together) in the hopes of settling a case.
Clare County Small Claims Court Jurisdiction
A plaintiff should file the small claims court case in the district court where the defendant lives, where the defendant’s business is located, or where the transactions (that are at issue) occurred. This is commonly called venue. Filing in the wrong district court can postpone your case being heard, force you to pay additional filing and service fees, and/or have your case be dismissed. District court staff is prohibited by law from providing you legal advice, but we do recommend contacting them to confirm that the district court’s geographical jurisdiction covers the area where your case occurred.
What Options does a Defendant have in Small Court Cases?
A defendant has the following options after being sued in small claims court:
- Ignoring the Case (which could end up with the court issuing a default judgment against you)
- Settling the Case Outside of Court
- Transferring the Case out of Small Claims Court
- Appearing at the Court Hearing
Is a Jury Available in a Clare County Small Claims Court Case?
Small Claims Court cases do not use juries. Small Claims Court cases are only heard in front of an attorney magistrate or a judge. An attorney magistrate is an attorney who has been appointed by the court to assist with certain types of cases and legal actions. Due to judicial funding, oftentimes, an attorney magistrate is used to hear a large portion of small claims court cases.
Court Locations for Small Claims Court Cases in Clare County
80th District Court handles small claims court cases in Clare County. 80th District Court is located at:Clare County Courthouse 225 W. Main St. Harrison, MI 48625
The phone number for Clare County District Court is: (989) 539-7173. The District Court can be found online here.
Ruling After a Small Claims Court Hearing
The court can make a decision at the time of the hearing (after both sides have presented their case). Or, the judge or magistrate might take the matter under submission. If this happens, the court will probably notify the parties through mail.
Small Claims Court in Clare County
Small Claims Court cases in Clare County Michigan are heard in 80th District Court. Small Claims court is a special type of court with a purpose of allowing people to settle their disputes over money without the use of attorneys or lawyers. Neither the plaintiff not the defendant need to know anything about the law in order to utilize small claims court. Attorneys cannot represent parties in small claims court. Neither party needs to hire an attorney for small claims court cases (but can consult with one for questions about their case). A party simply states the case in their own words. Small claims court is a special division of 80th District Court. District courts also handle other criminal and civil cases, in addition to small claims court.
How is a Defendant served in a Small Claims Court Case?
The court will provide a copy of the Affidavit and Claim that you filed to the Defendant. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff is also responsible for paying the cost of service of the defendant. Service is how the court ensures the defendant has notice of the nature of the lawsuit and the hearing date. The court uses personal service or certified mail to provide proper notice to the defendant.
Removing the Case to District Court
Removal of a case to regular district court allows both parties to hire an attorney (if they so choose) and also removes the $6,000 limit that the court can award. If the case is removed, it also means the process will be much lengthier as the normal rules of evidence and discovery will now apply. A request for removal may be made by either the plaintiff or the defendant. In order to do this, a party needs to complete and file a Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims with the court clerk. This document needs to be filed prior to the small claims court trial or hearing and can actually be filed the same day (so long as it is before the hearing starts). The document can be found online.
Types of Cases in Small Claims Court
Small claims court only handles civil cases where the amount in dispute is $6,000 or less. A court can only award money in a small claims court case. If a plaintiff wants specific property or the court to make an order regarding specific performance, small claims court is not the property place to file the case. Here are some examples of common types of small claims court cases:
- Traffic Collisions
- Tenant and landlord disputes over a security deposit
- Cases concerning contractual terms, performance, and payment
Small claims court does not handle the following types of cases:
- Assault and Battery
- Any Intentional Harm or Damage
Can an attorney represent me in my Clare County Small Claims Court Case?
Parties are not allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court. Neither side is allowed to have an attorney represent them. Each side is required to represent himself or herself in front of the court. Either side can request that the case be removed to regular district court (which means either side could then be represented by an attorney). The disadvantage to this is that district court uses normal rules of discovery and presentation of evidence which means the case will take much longer to reach a conclusion.
How Much Money Can a Party Sue for in Small Claims Court?
A small claims court in Clare County cannot award a party more than $6,000 (not including court costs and other fees). If a plaintiff filed a case in small claims court that is worth more than six thousand dollars, the plaintiff can still choose to file the case in small claims court. If they do, the party waives their right to recover any amount above six thousand. Additionally, the plaintiff is precluded from filing another case to ask for the amount above the threshold.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Hearing
The plaintiff will have the opportunity to present evidence first. The defendant will then have the chance to present their side. If the plaintiff does not show up for the hearing, the court will likely dismiss the case. The court may enter a default judgment is the defendant fails to appear at the hearing.
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Clare County
A party wishing to file a small claims court case needs to complete a form(print out and complete). Once completed, the form needs to be filed with the 80th District Court clerk. Along with the filing, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee which varies based on the amount of the claim. Filings fees for small claims court cases are:
- $30 – for claims up to $600
- $50 – for claims between $600 and $1,750
- $70 – for claims between $1,750 and up to $6,000
If the plaintiff prevails in the case, the court may allow the plaintiff to request the cost of the filing fee be added to the damages in the case (and ultimately paid by the defendant). Once the case has been filed, the clerk should provide you with the case number. Keep the court case number as you will use it anytime you contact the court about your case (or complete any additional paperwork about your case). Along with the court case number, the clerk should provide you with the location, date, and time of the hearing for your case.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
Before the hearing, parties should gather all documents, papers, and other evidence related to the case. This includes any contracts, written agreements, receipts, photographs, or videos that involve the subject matter of your case. Both the plaintiff and defendant will have the chance to present evidence to the court. It is strongly recommended you write out what you plan on saying before the hearing (at least an outline or bullet points). Also, if there are any witnesses besides yourself who have information that would support your position, you should arrange to have them present at the hearing so they can present testimony to the court.