Preparing for a Hearing in Small Claims Court
You should gather all evidence well before the date of the hearing. 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. You should write out or prepare what you plan on saying ahead of time. 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.
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. 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. A request for removal may be made by either the plaintiff or the defendant. To accomplish this, a party should fill out and file with the court clerk a Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims. 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 Demand and Order for Removal is available on a website.
Court Locations for Small Claims Court Cases in Mason County
Mason County Small Claims Court cases are handled in the 79th District Court. 79th District Court is located at:Mason County Courthouse 304 E. Ludington Avenue Ludington, MI 49431
The phone number for Mason County District Court is: (231) 843-4130. The District Court can be found online here.
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 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 is also precluded from suing again based on the same case after the case has been decided.
Option for a Defendant After Being Sued in Small Claims Court
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
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Mason 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 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 has been filed, the clerk should provide you with the 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.
Who Hears My Case in Mason County Small Claims Court
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. Attorney Magistrates are attorneys that have been appointed by the court to assist the court with a variety of legal matters (including hearing small court cases). Due to judicial funding, oftentimes, an attorney magistrate is used to hear a large portion of small claims court cases.
Can I have an attorney Represent me in Small Claims Court?
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. 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.
Ruling After a Small Claims Court Hearing
The magistrate or judge could make a decision at the hearing after the presentation of evidence. Or, the judge or magistrate might take the matter under submission. If this happens, the court will probably notify the parties through mail.
Mason County Small Claims Court Cases
Small Claims Court cases in Mason County Michigan are heard in 79th 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. Small claims court is designed so that a normal person (non-lawyer) can successfully use the court to hear their case. Attorneys cannot represent parties in small claims court. Because of this, a party does not need an attorney. In small claims court, a party need only present their own side of their case in their own words. Although it is called small claims court, it is a division of the 79th District Court. The district court also hears some criminal, civil, and other legal actions.
Settling a Small Claims Court
Often, a court may try to settle or resolve a case short of an actual trial. 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.
Mason County Small Claims Court Hearings
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. If the defendant does not appear at the hearing, the court may issue a default judgment based on the evidence that the plaintiff presents.
Service of a Defendant in Small Claims Court
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 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. The court uses personal service or certified mail to provide proper notice to the defendant.
Mason 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. The court staff of the 79th District Court cannot provide advice, but it can tell you the geographic location the court serves. It is recommended you contact the court clerk of the District Court to confirm you have the proper venue.
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 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. Usually, these are the most common types of cases filed and heard in small claims court:
- 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