Defendant’s Options in Small Claims Court Cases
Once a defendant has been served, the following options are available:
- Settling the case outside of court
- Removing or Transferring the Case to Regular District Court
- Appearing at the Small Claims Court Hearing
- Ignoring the case (and having the court issue a default at the hearing)
Small Claims Court Case Types
Civil cases where a party is seeking $6,000 or less can be filed in small claims court. A party can only ask for money in small claims court. If a party is seeking property or specific performance, the case should not be filed in small claims court. Here are some examples of common types of small claims court cases:
- Contract disputes including payment or performance
- Car accidents where insurance is not covering the damages
- Tenant and landlord disputes over the return of security deposit
The following cases cannot be filed in small claims court:
- Assault and Battery
- Any Intentional Harm or Damage
Where Should a case be filed?
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. 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. 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.
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. 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 must be filed before the hearing starts, but can actually be filed the day of the hearing or anytime before the hearing. The document can be found online.
Resolving a Case without a Hearing
Oftentimes the court may try to settle a court case without a hearing. This can be done through a process called mediation. A mediator will meet with both parties and attempt to find some common ground for resolving the claim without a trial.
Keweenaw County Small Claims Court Cases
Small Claims court cases in Keweenaw County are filed in the 97th District Court. The 97th District Court handles a variety of cases including small claims court cases. Small claims court is a special court in Michigan designed for people to settle monetary disputes without the aid of attorneys. 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 97th District Court. District courts also handle other criminal and civil cases, in addition to small claims court.
Hearings in Keweenaw County Small Claims Court
The plaintiff will have the opportunity to present evidence first. The defendant presents his or her evidence once the plaintiff’s presentation of evidence is complete. 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.
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). The court may also take the case under submission (and rule at a later time). If this occurs, then the court will notify both parties of the outcome (usually through mail).
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 how the defendant learns of the lawsuit and when the case will be heard. Courts utilize both personal service and service by certified mail.
Keweenaw County Small Claims Court Location
97th District Court handles small claims court cases in Keweenaw County. 97th District Court is located at:Keweenaw County Courthouse 5095 Fourth Street Eagle River, MI 49950
The phone number for Keweenaw County District Court is: (906) 337-2229. The District Court can be found online here.
Are Attorneys Allowed in Small Claims Court in Keweenaw County?
Small claims court does not allow parties to be represented by attorneys. Neither the plaintiff nor defendant can be represented by an attorney in small claims court. Both parties are required to represent themselves at the hearing. Either side can request that the case be removed to regular district court where both sides can have 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.
Who Listens to a Small Claims Court Case in Keweenaw County?
Juries are not allowed in small claims court cases. 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. In most instances, an attorney magistrate will hear your case.
What is the maximum amount of money that a Small Claims Court can Award in Keweenaw County?
A small claims court in Keweenaw 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 the plaintiff believes is worth more, the case can still be filed 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.
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Keweenaw 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 97th District Court clerk. The plaintiff will also have to pay a filing fee when filing a case. The filing fees 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. It is important to keep this case number with you to use each time you contact the court clerk or any court staff as it will help them identify your case. The clerk should also provide you with the date, time, and location of the hearing.
Keweenaw County Small Claims Court Hearing Preparations
Before the hearing, parties should gather all documents, papers, and other evidence related to the case. Evidence could include a contract, a purchase order, a receipt, pictures, or videos related to the 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). If you have witnesses who also have information that will support your position, you should make arrangements to have them present for the hearing so they can present testimony.