Chautauqua County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court Lingo
The party is a person, business, or other entity involved in a court case (on either side of the “v.” in the case name). The plaintiff (sometimes referred to as a claimant) is the person (or entity) that begins the lawsuit (by a filing at the courthouse). A defendant is the person or entity being sued (person who owes money). Sometimes, a third party (not the plaintiff or defendant) is brought into the case where a defendant files a third party claim asserting that another party is responsible for plaintiff’s damages. A defendant who is interested in filing a third party action should contact the clerk of the local court for the property procedures and filing fees.
Small Claims Court Appeals for Chautauqua County Cases
A party has 30 days from the date of the judgment to file a notice of appeal (or 35 days if you were mailed the court’s judgment). There are fees for filing a notice of appeal as well as additional costs for purchasing a transcript (if a court reporter was present). If you are interested in filing an appeal, check with the clerk of your specific court for the procedures and filing fees. Remember, an appellate court will only overturn a judgment if the ruling is “clearly erroneous.” This is why we recommend consulting an attorney to determine if an appeal is appropriate.
How do I file a counterclaim against the plaintiff?
A defendant can file a counterclaim against a plaintiff. The counterclaim must be filed within five days of receiving the notice of claim. The cost to file a counterclaim is $3. The counterclaim must be for money and cannot be for more than $3,000. A defendant can file a counterclaim after the five day window, however, the plaintiff can ask for a later hearing date (to allow the plaintiff to prepare to respond to the counterclaim) or the court may set a later hearing date on its own.
Do I have to hire an attorney?
You are not required to hire an attorney for a small claims court case. Small claims court rules and procedures are designed so that an attorney is not needed in order for a party to be adequately represented. That said, you may choose to hire an attorney to represent you. Sometimes, when a plaintiff and a defendant have both retained attorneys, the court can transfer the case from small claims to the regular civil part.
Can I ask for a continuance?
In small claims court cases, a continuance can also be called an adjournment. The court generally discourages continuances in the interest of resolving disputes quickly and inexpensively. Only the court can grant a continuance. You can ask for an adjournment by sending a letter to the court before your hearing date. You should also send a copy of the letter to the other party. You can also ask for a continuance on the actual day of the hearng, but the court may be inclined to deny it (because you waited so long to ask for one). Always be prepared to go forward on that date in case the court denies your request.
Can I file my small claims case in Chautauqua?
The action must be brought in the town or village where the defendant resides (or has an open business office).
What are Chautauqua County Small Claims Court cases?
Small Claims Court cases are heard in the town or village court for Chautauqua County. In small claims court, individuals can sue for up to $3,000. These cases are designed to be resolved informally (so a party does not have to hire an attorney). Note: If you have a claim for more than $3,000, you cannot separate it into two claims to be under the limit. A claimant or plantiff can only seek monetary relief in small claims court. You cannot ask the court to order a defendant to do something (like fix your property damage or fulfill the terms of a contract). You can only sue to recover money. A party may sue a municipality or other public entity. The law requires you to file a claim with that entity within 90 days of the incident which gives rise to your claim. If you do not do this, your case can be dismissed.
Am I able to sue in small claims court?
The small claims court is available to any person who has reached the age of majority (18 years or older). If you are a younger than 18, the parent or guardian may bring the action on your behalf. Usually, corporations, partnerships, or other assignees are unable to sue in Small Claims Court (but they can bring an action in Commercial Claims Court which is located at the same court where your small claims court case would normally be filed). These entities can be sued in this court. When a business, corporation, or other entity is sued, the entity is able to authorize a person (usually an employee, director, or attorney) to appear on its behalf.
Beginning a Small Claims Court Case
The case has to be filed at the court location. The court will provide you with the necessary forms to be filled out. These forms will ask for a statement of the case. The statement should be brief and include a description of the incident that is the basis of your claim. You should include all important names and dates. You should note in the statement of the case if you are requesting interest (which happens if your case concerns property damage or a contract specifies an interest amount). Most courts have a clerk who can assist you to ensure you follow the procedures (and answer questions). In the few courts that do not have clerks, the judge can assist you.
The logistics (date and time) of the hearing will be provided to you by the court (the small claims court may not hear cases every day). The clerk will “serve” the notice of claim by mailing it to the defendant (this is what part of your filing fee funds). This notice informs a defendant the time and location of the hearing and states the reason for the claim being made by plaintiff. The clerk sends the notice via certified and first-class mail. Once 21 days have passed, the defendant is deemed “served” unless the first-class item was returned undeliverable. If a defendant cannot be served by mail, then the clerk will provide you with instructions on how the defendant can be personally served. The court (via the clerk or judge) will likely give you a new hearing date and time. Pursuant to due process, a hearing cannot occur until the defendant has been served. If service has not been completed within four months of filing, the claim will be dismissed. Dismissal is without prejudice meaning you can refile if you learn new information that the defendant is still residing in that village or town.
What are the filing costs for a case in Chautauqua County?
In Chautauqua County, the fee to file a Small Claims Court case is $10 (if your claim amount is $1,000 or less) or $15 (if the claim is for more than $1000.00).
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Chautauqua County
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Chautauqua County
Mediation is a confidential, non-binding dispute resolution program in which an impartial mediator attempts to bring both parties together to a mutually acceptable outcome. A judge may refer a case to mediation if both parties agree. In Chautauqua County, the program used for mediation is:
Center for Resolution and Justice
Child and Family Services
200 E. Third Street, 4th Floor