What Options does a Defendant have in Small Court Cases?
After being served with an Affidavit and Claim of a small claims court case, the defendant has the following options:
- 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
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Kalamazoo County
The forms for a plaintiff to fill out to begin a small claims court case can be found here. Once filled out, the plaintiff needs to file the form with the 8th 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 is successful in the case, the court could add the cost of the filing fee to the damages in the case. Once the case is filed, the court clerk should provide you with a court 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). In addition to the case number, you should also be provided with the date, time, and location of the court hearing for your case.
Settling a Case Without a Small Claims Court Trial
Oftentimes the court may try to settle a court case without a hearing. This can be done through a process called mediation. In mediation, a mediator will meet with both parties, discuss the case, and try and work towards an agreement that both sides can live with in the hopes of resolving the case without a trial.
Are Attorneys Allowed in Small Claims Court in Kalamazoo County?
Parties are not allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court. Neither the plaintiff nor defendant can be represented by an attorney in small claims court. Each side is required to represent himself or herself in front of the court. 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). However, regular district court follows the normal rules of evidence and procedures which mean the dispute will likely take significantly longer to resolve.
Who Listens to a Small Claims Court Case in Kalamazoo County?
Small Claims Court cases do not use juries. Small Claims Court cases are only heard in front of an attorney magistrate or a judge. Attorney magistrates are attorneys who have been appointed by the court to handle certain legal matters. In most instances, an attorney magistrate will hear your case.
Kalamazoo County Small Claims Court Location
8th District Court handles small claims court cases in Kalamazoo County. 8th District CourtNorth Location 227 W. Michigan Ave. Kalamazoo, MI 49007
The phone number for Kalamazoo County District Court is: (269) 384-8171. The District Court can be found online here.
Serving the Defendant in a Small Claims Court Case
The court will provide a copy of the Affidavit and Claim that you filed to the Defendant. The plaintiff is required to pay the court for the cost of service of the defendant. Service is a way for the court to provide notice to the Defendant of your action so the Defendant can have proper time to respond and appear and provide a defense. Courts utilize both personal service and service by certified mail.
Kalamazoo County Small Claims Court Cases
Small Claims Court cases in Kalamazoo County Michigan are heard in 8th District Court. A special branch of 8th District Court handles small claims court cases whose purpose is to settle and decide disputes concerning 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). In small claims court, a party need only present their own side of their case in their own words. Small claims court is a division of 8th District Court. District courts also handle other criminal and civil cases, in addition to small claims court.
Kalamazoo County Small Claims Court Hearings
Plaintiff usually is given the first chance to present evidence. 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. 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.
Is there a Monetary Limit for Small Claims Court Cases in Kalamazoo County?
Small Claims courts cannot award more than $6,000 to a party. If a plaintiff filed a case in small claims court that the plaintiff believes is worth more, the case can still be filed 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.
Small Claims Court Case Removal 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. Removal to district court means the normal rules and procedures apply including specifically procedures related to the presentation of evidence and discovery process. 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.
Kalamazoo County Small Claims Court Jurisdiction
A Small Claims Court case needs to be filed where the defendant’s home is, where the defendant’s business is located (if you are suing a business), or where the transaction or event that the case arose from occurred. The location of the filing is often called venue. If a case is filed in the wrong location, it will delay your case being actually decided and may result in having to pay a second filing fee or having the case dismiss your first case. 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.
Kalamazoo County Small Claims Court Hearing Preparations
Before the hearing, parties should gather all documents, papers, and other evidence related to the case. This could include copies of contracts, purchase agreements, checks, photographs or videos. Both sides will be given the opportunity to present their case. 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). You should also try and arrange for any witnesses which support your position to be present in court at the hearing to present testimony.
Types of Cases in Small Claims Court
Small claims court only handles civil cases where the amount in dispute is $6,000 or less. Money is the only remedy a party can ask for in small claims court. 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:
- Assault and Battery
- Any Intentional Harm or Damage
Court’s Ruling in a Small Claims Court Case
The magistrate or judge could make a decision at the hearing after the presentation of evidence. The court may also take the case under submission (and rule at a later time). If this happens, the court will probably notify the parties through mail.