Columbia County Small Claims Court
Can I hire an attorney?
In small claims court cases heard in the village or town courts, you are not required to hire an attorney. The procedures and rules for small claims court are actually designed to be simple and informal so that a party does not have to hire an attorney and should be able to represent themselves. 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.
Am I able to sue in small claims court?
In order to file an action, you must be 18 years of age or older. If you are a younger than 18, the parent or guardian may bring the action on your behalf. Corporate entities, partnerships, and other entities cannot file in small claims court. Their actions must be filed in Commercial Claims Court. These entities can only act as defendants in small claims court. These corporate entities are able to be sued in small claims court. In these cases, the corporation or partnership can authorize an attorney, director, or employee of the entity to appear on its behalf (to defend the action).
What is the correct name for the defendant?
For people, you will want the person’s first and last name (their real name, and not a nickname they go by). You should also be able to provide the address of the defendant. Businesses are more tricky because sometimes you do not know how the business is structured. If you contact the Columbia County Clerk’s Office, they will be able to provide you with the proper business name.
What about a jury trial for a small claims court case in Columbia County?
A defendant (and only a defendant) can request a jury trial for a small claims court case. The demand must be made prior to the actual hearing date. An affidavit (sworn statement) has to be filed which identifies the factual issues a jury is needed to hear. The judge will then determine if the case should remain in small claims court or be transferred to the regular civil part. If the case remains in regular small claims court, six jurors are used to hear the case.
How do I begin 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 is a fancy way of asking what your case is about. This should be brief and include all important facts. You may be entitled to interest if the basis for your case is property damage or based on a contract. 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 “give notice” to the defendant of the case which includes the statement of the case as you wrote it and the date and time of the hearing. This is called serving the defendant. The clerk will provide ths notice through mail–both certified and first-class. If the notice sent by first-class mail is not returned as undeliverable, the defendant is deemed to be “served,” even if the notice sent by certified mail has not been delivered (otherwise a defendant could simply refuse to sign for the certified mail). If the post office cannot deliver notice of the claim and you believe the person still resides in that village or town, the court (clerk) will give you a new hearing date and will instruct you on how to personally serve the defendant. Due Process (a fancy way of saying fairness) requires that the defendant be served prior to a hearing on your case. If service has not been completed within four months of filing, the claim will be dismissed. The case will be dismissed without prejudice which means you can refile with the same court if you learn the defendant is still residing in that location (otherwise, if the defendant moved, you would file it in the court of the new town or village).
Columbia County Small Claims Court Locations
Every town and village of Columbia County has its own small claims court to handle cases arising in that location. Columbia County Small Claims Cases are handled in 22 locations for the following towns and villages: Ancram Town, Austerlitz Town, Canaan Town, Chatham Town, Chatham Village, Claverack Town, Clermont Town, Copake Town, Gallatin Town, Germantown Town, Ghent Town, Greenport Town, Hillsdale Town, Kinderhook Town, Kinderhook Village, Livingston Town, New Lebanon Town, Philmont Village, Stockport Town, Stuyvesant Town, Taghkanic Town, and Valatie Village.
The locations for the courts are:
Ancram Town Court1416 County Route 7 Ancram, NY 12502
Austerlitz Town CourtRoute 203 PO Box 119 Spencertown, NY 12165
Canaan Town CourtCounty Route 5 PO Box 59 Canaan, NY 12029
Chatham Town CourtPO Box 326 Chatham, NY 12037
Chatham Village Court77 Main Street Chatham, NY 12037
Claverack Town Court836 Highway 217 P.O. Box 823 Philmont, NY 12565
Clermont Town Court1795 Route 9 Town Hall Germantown, NY 12526
Copake Town Court230 Mountain View Road Copake, NY 12516
Gallatin Town CourtPO Box 240 Town Hall Ancram, NY 12502
Germantown Town Court50 Palatine Road Germantown, NY 12526
Ghent Town CourtPO Box 98 2306 Route 66 Ghent, NY 12075
Greenport Town Court600 Town Hall Drive Hudson, NY 12534
Hillsdale Town Court2609 Route 23 PO Box 305 Town Hall Hillsdale, NY 12529
Kinderhook Town CourtPO Box 437 Niverville, NY 12130
Kinderhook Village CourtBox 325 Kinderhook, NY 12106
Livingston Town Court119 County Route 19 Town Hall Livingston, NY 12541
New Lebanon Town Court7 Mill Road P.O. Box 247 New Lebanon, NY 12125
Philmont Village CourtPO Box 00 Philmont, NY 12565
Stockport Town Court2787 Atlantic Avenue Hudson, NY 12534
Stuyvesant Town Court5 Sunset Dr POB 33 Stuyvesant, NY 12173
Taghkanic Town Court626 Taghkanic Road Elizaville, NY 12523
Valatie Village Court3302 Williams Street Valatie, NY 12184
Are continuances allowed in small claims court?
The court may call a continuance an adjournment. The court generally discourages continuances in the interest of resolving disputes quickly and inexpensively. The only person with the power to move the hearing date is the court (even if both parties agree). 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. A party may also request a continuance on the actual hearing date, but a judge may be inclined to deny this request (and you should be prepared to go forward if the judge does not grant one).
Small Claims Court Terms
A party is one a person, business entity, or public entity that is named as a plaintiff or defendant in a case. A “plaintiff” or “claimant” is the party who brings or initiates the action in Small Claims Court. The defendant is the party who is being sued. 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. If you are the defendant and are interested in bringing in a third party, contact the court involved with your action about beginning a third party action.
What are Columbia County Small Claims Court cases?
In Columbia County, small claims court cases are heard in the local town or village court. The limit a plaintiff can ask for is $3,000. Small claims court cases are designed to be relatively informal (compared to normal civil cases). If your claim exceeds $3,000, you may not split them into two separate claims to bring it under the limit. The only form of relief you can sue for is monetary. You cannot ask the court to order a defendant to do something (like fix your property damage or fulfill the terms of a contract). A party can only sue for monetary relief. A plaintiff or claimant can also sue a public entity like a city or other agency. However, you have to file a claim with that agency before filing your small claims court action. The claim must be filed within ninety days of the incident. If you fail to follow this rule, your case will be dismissed.
Are there appeals in small claims court cases?
The deadline for appealing a small claims court judgment is 30 days (if you receive the judgment in court or have been personally delivered the judgment) or 35 days after the court or other party mails you the judgment. There are additional fees you need to file as well as determining whether a transcript of the case needs to be ordered. The small claims court clerk has specific information regarding fees associated with appeals. Remember, an appellate court will only overturn a judgment if the ruling is “clearly erroneous.” Some people find it useful to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to file an appeal.
What happens if a party fails to appear on the hearing date?
If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the case is dismissed. If you are the defendant, the court may grant a default judgment in your absence. Court rules require that the judge not enter a default judgment until one hour after the time set for the hearing.
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Columbia County
Mediation is one way the court offers to try and settle your case without a trial. Mediation is a confidential way to try and resolve the case. It involves a mediator who will try and bring the plaintiff and defendant together to agree on a result that is fair to all (or, more likely, somewhat fair to each party). In Columbia County, the mediation provider is:
Common Ground Dispute Resolution, Inc.
11 William St. Suite 2
Catskill, NY 12414
If mediation is not successful, the case remains in small claims court (with a trial). There is usually no charge for mediation (but there may be a small filing fee).
Hearing Day Procedures
We recommend arriving to court at least fifteen minutes before your hearing. Upon arriving, you should look for the small claims court calendar (or a clerk if there is no calendar). On the calendar, cases are listed by the last name of the plaintiff and then the defendant (or name of the business). If you cannot find your case, you should contact the clerk (or judge if there is no clerk). Courtrooms have different procedures. In some courtrooms, the clerk checks in parties as they arrive. Some courts simply have you wait until your case is called.
When your case is called, you may ask the court for a continuance or adjournment or any other request. If both parties are ready to proceed, the case will go forward.
Should I use arbitration for my small claims court case?
Abitration is a type of dispute resolution that is less-formal than a trial, but more formal than mediation. In arbitration, an arbitrator, who is often an experienced attorney, hears arguments, weighs evidence, and issues a final judgment on the merits of a claim. Arbitration can only be used when all parties agree (as the outcome is binding on all parties). If you do choose arbitration, your case can be heard far quicker than waiting for a judge to hear it (which is something to keep in mind if you want a quick resolution to your case). The arbitrator uses the exact same law the judge would follow. When an arbitrator decides your case, the decision is final. There is no appeal-by either party.
Can I file my small claims case in
A plaintiff has to bring the action in the village or town in which the defendant resides or a business has an open office.
How do I 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. If the counterclaim is filed after the five days, the plaintiff can ask for a later hearing date (and sometimes the court may continue the hearing out even without the plaintiff asking).
How much does it cost to file a case?
In Columbia 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).