Court Locations for Small Claims Court Cases in Lake County
Lake County Small Claims Court cases are handled in the 79th District Court. 79th District Court is located at:Lake County 800 10th Street Baldwin, MI 49304
The phone number for Lake County District Court is: (231) 745-4614. The District Court can be found online here.
Hearings in Lake County Small Claims Court
The plaintiff presents his or her evidence first. The defendant will then have the chance to present their side. 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.
Settling a Small Claims Court
Oftentimes the court may try to settle a court case without a hearing. Mediation is the method by which a court tries to settle a case without a hearing or trial. 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.
Will a Decision be made at the Hearing?
The court may make a decision at the hearing after both sides presented their evidence. 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).
Option for a Defendant After Being Sued in Small Claims Court
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)
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. Common types of cases handled in small claims court include the following:
- Traffic Collisions
- Tenant and landlord disputes over a security deposit
- Cases concerning contractual terms, performance, and payment
The following cases cannot be filed in small claims court:
- Assault and Battery
- Any Intentional Harm or Damage
Lake County Small Claims Court
Small Claims court cases in Lake County are filed in the 79th District Court. The 79th 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. Small claims court is a division of 79th District Court. District courts also handle other criminal and civil cases, in addition to small claims court.
How Much Money Can a Party Sue for in Small Claims Court?
Small Claims courts cannot award more than $6,000 to a party. If a party chooses to file their case in small claims court which is worth more than six thousand dollars, the party can still choose to file the case in small claims court. But, if the plaintiff does so, he or she gives up the right to recover anything more than that amount. Additionally, the plaintiff is precluded from filing another case to ask for the amount above the threshold.
Is a Jury Available in a Lake 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. Generally, attorney magistrates are used to hear small claims court cases.
Lake 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 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. 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
Both parties should gather all evidence well before the hearing. Evidence could include a contract, a purchase order, a receipt, pictures, or videos related to the case. 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.
Can an attorney represent me in my Lake County Small Claims Court Case?
Attorneys or lawyers are not allowed in small claims court. Neither the plaintiff or defendant is allowed to have an attorney represent them in the case. Each side is required to represent themselves in front of the judge or magistrate. 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 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.
How to File a Small Claims Court Case in Lake County
The forms for a plaintiff to fill out to begin a small claims court case can be found here. Once completed, the form needs to be filed with the 79th 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 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. The clerk should also provide you with the date, time, and location of the hearing.
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.
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). 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. The document needs to be filed before the small claims court trial or hearing. The Demand and Order for Removal is available on a website.