Small Claims Court Case Types
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. Usually, these are the most common types of cases filed and heard in small claims court:
- landlord and tenant dispute about the return of a security deposit
- Contractual dispute including performance or payment
- automobile accident where insurance isn’t available or does not cover the damages
The following cases cannot be filed in small claims court:
- Any intentional harm
- Assault and Battery
Court’s Ruling in a Small Claims Court Case
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.
Ingham 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. Where the case is filed is called venue. If a plaintiff files in the wrong district court, it will postpone your case being heard and may result in you paying multiple filing fees or even having the incorrectly filed case being dismissed by the court. While court staff cannot provide legal advice, it is recommended you contact the court clerk of the District Court to confirm that the court’s jurisdiction covers the geographic area needed for your case.
Preparing for a Hearing in Small Claims Court
You should gather all evidence well before the date of the hearing. 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 advised that you write out what you plan on saying to the court about your case in advance (to help focus in on what is really important). 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.
Settling a Case Without a Small Claims Court Trial
Oftentimes the court may try to settle a court case without a hearing. Mediation is the tool that a court may try to use to settle a case. A mediator will meet with both parties and attempt to find some common ground for resolving the claim without a trial.
Ingham County Small Claims Court Location
Ingham County Small Claims Court cases are handled in the 54A District Court. 54A District Court is located at:City Hall, 6th Floor 124 W. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI 48933
The phone number for Ingham County District Court is: (517) 483-4433. The Ingham County District Court can be found online here.
Are Attorneys Allowed in Small Claims Court in Ingham County?
Parties are not allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court. Neither the plaintiff or defendant is allowed to have an attorney represent them in the case. Both parties are required to represent themselves at the hearing. Either the plaintiff or the defendant can request that the case be removed to regular district court from small claims court (which would allow either side to utilize the services of an attorney). The downside to this is that regular district court utilizes the normal rules of evidence and discovery which means your case will take longer to resolve.
Ingham County Small Claims Court
Small Claims court cases in Ingham County are filed in the 54A District Court. The 54A District Court handles a variety of cases including small claims court cases. 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. A party does not need to know anything about the law to file a small claims court case. In small claims court in Michigan, attorneys are not allowed to argue cases for clients. Because of this, a party does not need an attorney. At the hearing, a party is only expected to present their case in their own words. Although it is called small claims court, it is a division of the 54A District Court. District courts also handle other criminal and civil cases, in addition to small claims court.
Small Claims Court Case Removal to District Court
Removal is the legal name for transferring the case from small claims court to regular district court (which allows either side to be represented by an attorney and removes the $6,000 limit of small claims court). Moving the case to regular district court means the normal rules of evidence and discovery apply meaning the case will take much longer to resolve. Either party can request to move the case out of small claims court. To do so, a party needs to complete and file a Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims, in the court where the case is set to be heard. 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 form can be found here.
Defendant’s Options in Small Claims Court Cases
Once a defendant has been served, the following options are available:
- 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 there a Monetary Limit for Small Claims Court Cases in Ingham County?
In Michigan, the small claims court cannot award more than $6,000 to a party. 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. However, if you do, the plaintiff loses the right to any amount over $6,000. The plaintiff also cannot file an additional case based on the same case to recover the excess amount.
Serving the Defendant in a Small Claims Court Case
Once the case is filed, the court will attempt to provide the defendant with proper notice of the case by giving the defendant a copy of the Affidavit and Claim form initially filled out by the plaintiff. 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. Service can be made by either certified mail or in person.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Hearing
The plaintiff will have the opportunity to present evidence first. The defendant presents their side of the case after the plaintiff. If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the court can dismiss the case. If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court can issue what is called a default judgment based on the case the plaintiff present.
Who Listens to a Small Claims Court Case in Ingham County?
Juries are not available for a small claims court case. Cases in small claims court are heard by either a district judge or an attorney magistrate. An attorney magistrate is an attorney who has been appointed by the court to assist with certain types of cases and legal actions. Generally, attorney magistrates are used to hear small claims court cases.
How to File a Small Claims Court Case in Ingham County
The plaintiff needs to fill out a form to file a case in small claims court which can be found online. Once filled out, the plaintiff needs to file the form with the 54A District Court clerk. When submitting the filing, the plaintiff will need to pay a filing fee. 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 award the filing fee to the plaintiff as part of the costs of the action. Once the case is filed, the court clerk should provide you with a court case number. You should keep this court case number handy as it will help you identify your case when you speak with court staff or complete paperwork associated with your case. In addition to the case number, you should also be provided with the date, time, and location of the court hearing for your case.