Who Hears My Case in Mecosta 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 who have been appointed by the court to handle certain legal matters. Generally, attorney magistrates are used to hear small claims court cases.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
Before the hearing, parties should gather all documents, papers, and other evidence related to the case. This includes any contracts, written agreements, receipts, photographs, or videos that involve the subject matter of your case. Both the plaintiff and the defendant will have a chance to present their side of the case to the court. You should write out or prepare what you plan on saying ahead of time. 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.
Removing the Case to District Court
Removing the case to regular district court allows both parties to be represented by attorneys but also removes the $6,000 limit. 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 the plaintiff or defendant can decide to remove the case from the small claims court division to the regular district 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. The document needs to be filed before the small claims court trial or hearing. The form can be found here.
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. The court may dismiss the case if the plaintiff fails to appear. The court may enter a default judgment is the defendant fails to appear at the hearing.
Defendant’s Options in Small Claims Court Cases
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
Mecosta 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. Filing in the wrong district court can postpone your case being heard, force you to pay additional filing and service fees, and/or have your case be dismissed. 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.
How do I file a Small Claims court case in Mecosta 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 77th District Court clerk. The plaintiff will also have to pay a filing fee when filing a case. The fees for filing a small claims court case 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. 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). The clerk should also provide you with the date, time, and location of 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. Usually, these are the most common types of cases filed and heard in small claims court:
- 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
How is a Defendant served 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 must pay for this cost of service. Service is how the defendant learns of the lawsuit and when the case will be heard. Service can be made by either certified mail or in person.
Can an attorney represent me in my Mecosta County Small Claims Court Case?
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 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 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.
What is the maximum amount of money that a Small Claims Court can Award in Mecosta County?
A small claims court in Mecosta County cannot award a party more than $6,000 (not including court costs and other fees). 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. However, if you do, the plaintiff loses the right to any amount over $6,000. Additionally, the plaintiff is precluded from filing another case to ask for the amount above the threshold.
Mecosta County Small Claims Court
Small Claims court cases in Mecosta County are filed in the 77th District Court. The 77th 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. Neither the plaintiff not the defendant need to know anything about the law in order to utilize small claims court. Attorneys are not allowed to appear in court or argue on behalf of clients 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). 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 77th District Court. The 77th District Court handles other types of civil cases along with criminal cases.
Ruling After a Small Claims Court Hearing
The court may make a decision at the hearing after both sides presented their evidence. Or, the judge or magistrate might take the matter under submission. If a matter is taken under submission, the court will notify both parties of the ruling (likely through mail).
Mecosta County Small Claims Court Location
77th District Court handles small claims court cases in Mecosta County. 77th District Court is located at:Mecosta County Building 400 Elm Street Big Rapids, MI 49307
The phone number for Mecosta County District Court is: (231) 592-0799. The District Court can be found online here.
Resolving a Case without a Hearing
Frequently, a court may attempt to resolve a case without an actual hearing. This can be done through a process called mediation. 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.