Option for a Defendant After Being Sued in Small Claims Court
A defendant has the following options after being sued in small claims court:
- Removing the case to Regular District Court
- Appearing at the Court Hearing
- Ignoring the Case (which may end up in a court issuing a default judgment against you)
- Settling the Case
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. Service can be made by either certified mail or in person.
How do I file a Small Claims court case in St. Clair County?
A party wishing to file a small claims court case needs to complete a form(print out and complete). Once filled out, the plaintiff needs to file the form with the 72nd District Court clerk. Along with the filing, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee which varies based on the amount of the claim. 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 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. Along with the court case number, the clerk should provide you with the location, date, and time of the hearing for your case.
St. Clair County Small Claims Court
72nd District Court handles Small Claims court cases in St. Clair County. 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. In small claims court in Michigan, attorneys are not allowed to argue cases for clients. A party does not need an attorney in small claims court (but can obviously consult with or talk to an attorney about their case if they want). A party simply states the case in their own words. Small claims court is a division of 72nd District Court. District courts also handle other criminal and civil cases, in addition to small claims court.
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. 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.
Can an attorney represent me in my St. Clair County Small Claims Court Case?
Parties are not allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court. Neither side is allowed to have an attorney represent them. Both parties are required to represent themselves at the hearing. 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 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.
Preparing for a Hearing in Small Claims Court
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 the defendant will have a chance to present their side of the case 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). 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
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 accomplish this, a party should fill out and file with the court clerk a Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims. This must be filed before the hearing starts, but can actually be filed the day of the hearing or anytime before the hearing. The Demand and Order for Removal is available on a website.
Court Locations for Small Claims Court Cases in St. Clair County
St. Clair County Small Claims Court cases are handled in the 72nd District Court. 72nd District Court201 McMorran Blvd. Port Huron, MI 48060
The phone number for St. Clair County District Court is: (810) 985-2072. The 72nd District Court can be foundonline.
What is the maximum amount of money that a Small Claims Court can Award in St. Clair County?
Small Claims courts cannot award more than $6,000 to a party. If a plaintiff filed a case in small claims court that is worth more than six thousand dollars, the plaintiff 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. The plaintiff also cannot file an additional case based on the same case to recover the excess amount.
Who Listens to a Small Claims Court Case in St. Clair County?
Juries are not allowed in small claims court cases. A small claims court case is heard by either a 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.
Where Should a case be filed?
A case should be filed in the district court where the defendant resides, where the defendant’s business is located, or where the transaction involved in the case occurred. Where the case is filed is 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.
Hearings in St. Clair County Small Claims Court
The plaintiff will have the opportunity to present 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 does not appear at the hearing, the court may issue a default judgment based on the evidence that the plaintiff presents.
What kind of cases can be filed in small claims court?
Small claims court only handles civil cases where the amount in dispute is $6,000 or less. A court can only award money in a small claims court case. If a plaintiff (or defendant in a counter-claim) is seeking specific property or an order from the court requiring a person to take certain action, the case should not be filed in small claims court. Common types of cases handled in small claims court include the following:
- 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:
- Any intentional harm
- Assault and Battery
Court’s Ruling in a Small Claims Court Case
The court may make a decision at the hearing after both sides presented their evidence. The court can also take the matter under submission. If this occurs, then the court will notify both parties of the outcome (usually through mail).