Erie County Small Claims Court
Are continuances allowed in small claims court?
In small claims court cases, a continuance can also be called an adjournment. These are discouraged in small claims court cases because the purpose of small claims court is a quick, inexpensive resolution of disputes. Only the court can give you a continuance (even if you have talked to the other party and agreed to a later date). If you want a continuance, you can ask the court through mail. You should send a copy of the request to all the parties involved in the case as well. 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).
Jury Trials in Small Claims Court
Only a defendant can make the request for a jury trial. The demand must be made prior to the hearing. (The reason a plaintiff cannot demand a jury trial is because if the plaintiff files the case in small claims court the court deems the plaintiff consenting to have factual issues determined by the judge and not a jury, otherwise the case would be filed in the regular civil part). An affidavit (sworn statement) has to be filed which identifies the factual issues a jury is needed to hear. The judge will then decide whether the case will remain in small claims court or be transferred to the regular civil part. If the case remains in small claims court, only six jurors are used.
What are the fancy terms used in these cases?
A party is a person (or entity) on either side of the “v.” (plaintiff and defendant are each parties to the case). The plaintiff (sometimes referred to as a claimant) is the person (or entity) that begins the lawsuit (by a filing at the courthouse). The defendant is the party who is being sued. In certain cases, a third party (ie. not the plaintiff or defendant) is brought into a case (usually by a defendant who feels the third party is partly responsible for the damage to plaintiff). 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.
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. A party does have a right to retain an attorney if he, she, or it wishes. If there are attorneys representing both parties, the case may be transferred to the regular civil part of the court.
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Erie County
Mediation is an attempt to settle your case without a trial. It is a consifential way to resolve the case. Mediation involved a person acting as a mediator who will try and bring opposing parties to an agreement that all the parties can agree to. In Erie County, mediation services are provided by:
Center for Resolution and Justice
Child and Family Services
625 Delaware Avenue, Suite 300
Buffalo, NY 14202
If mediation does not resolve the issue, the case continues in small claims court. Note: If parties agree, they can enter mediation even before a case is filed. There may be a small filing fee for mediations.
What happens if I don’t show up for the hearing date for my small claims court case in Erie County?
If you are the plaintiff and fail to show up to court on the date of your case, the court will dismiss the case. If you are the defendant, the court may grant a default judgment in your absence. The Court will wait approximately one hour (in case you are simply running late) before granting a default judgment.
Can I file my small claims case in Erie?
A plaintiff has to bring the action in the village or town in which the defendant resides or a business has an open office.
Small Claims Court Locations in Erie County
Each town and village has its own court to handle cases from there. Erie County Small Claims Cases are handled in 36 locations for the following towns and villages: Akron Village, Alden Town, Alden Village, Amherst Town, Angola Village, Aurora Town, Blasdell Village, Boston Town, Brant Town, Cheektowaga Town, Clarence Town, Colden Town, Collins Town, Concord Town, Depew Village, Eden Town, Elma Town, Evans Town, Grand Island Town, Hamburg Town, Hamburg Village, Holland Town, Kenmore Village, Lancaster Town, Lancaster Village, Marilla Town, Newstead Town, North Collins Town, Orchard Park Town, Orchard Park Village, Sardinia Town, Springville Village, Tonawanda Town, Wales Town, West Seneca Town, and Williamsville Village.
The small claims court locations are:
Akron Village Court5 Clarence Center Road Newstead Town Hall POB 227 Akron, NY 14001
Alden Town Court3311 Wende Road PO Box 180 Alden, NY 14004
Alden Village Court13336 Broadway Alden, NY 14004
Amherst Town Court400 John James Audubon Pkwy Amherst, NY 14228
Angola Village Court41 Commercial Street Angola, NY 14006
Aurora Town Court571 Main Street Town Hall East Aurora, NY 14052
Blasdell Village Court121 Miriam Avenue Blasdell, NY 14219
Boston Town Court8500 Boston State Road Boston, NY 14025
Brant Town CourtRoute 249 PO Box 232 Brant, NY 14027
Cheektowaga Town Court3223 Union Road Cheektowaga, NY 14227
Clarence Town Court1 Town Place Clarence, NY 14031
Colden Town CourtS-8812 State Road Colden, NY 14033
Collins Town Court14093 Mill Street PO Box 420 Collins, NY 14034
Concord Town Court86 Franklin Street PO Box 368 Springville, NY 14141
Depew Village Court85 Manitou Street Depew, NY 14043
Eden Town Court2795 East Church Street Eden, NY 14057
Elma Town Court1600 Bowen Road Elma Town Hall Elma, NY 14059
Evans Town Court8787 Erie Road Angola, NY 14006
Grand Island Town Court2255 Baseline Road Grand Island, NY 14072
Hamburg Town CourtS-6100 South Park Avenue Hamburg, NY 14075
Hamburg Village Court100 Main Street Hamburg, NY 14075
Holland Town Court47 Pearl Street PO Box 70 Holland, NY 14080
Kenmore Village Court2919 Delaware Avenue Municipal Court Kenmore, NY 14217
Lancaster Town Court525 Pavement Road Lancaster, NY 14086
Lancaster Village Court5423 Broadway Lancaster, NY 14086
Marilla Town Court1740 Two Rod Road PO Box 120 Marilla, NY 14102
Newstead Town Court5 Clarence Center Road P.O. Box 227 Akron, NY 14001
North Collins Town Court10543 Main Street PO Box 51 North Collins, NY 14111
Orchard Park Town Court4295 S. Buffalo Street Orchard Park, NY 14127
Orchard Park Village CourtS-4295 South Buffalo Street Orchard Park, NY 14127
Sardinia Town Court12320 Savage Road Community Center Sardinia, NY 14134
Springville Village Court65 Franklin Street P.O. Box 362 Springville, NY 14141
Tonawanda Town Court1835 Sheridan Drive Buffalo, NY 14223
Wales Town CourtEmery Road Wales Memorial Building South Wales, NY 14139
West Seneca Town Court1250 Union Road West Seneca, NY 14224
Williamsville Village Court5565 Main Street Williamsville, NY 14221
Small Claims Court Cases in Erie County
The local town or village court hears small claims court cases in Erie County. In small claims court, individuals can sue for up to $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 relief available in small claims court cases 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). You can only sue to recover money. You are also able to sue a municipality (city, village, town, or county) and other public agencies, but the law requires you to give notice before you sue them. Notice must be given within 90 days of the incident which gives rise to your case. If you do not provide notice within this window, your case will be dismissed.
Arbitration of Small Claims Court Cases in Erie County
Arbitration is a dispute resolution process that is binding. 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). Arbitrators use the same law as the small claims court judge. The final judgment issued by the arbitrator cannot be appealed by any party.
Can I 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 someone is younger than 18, a parent or legal guardian is able to bring an action on behalf of the minor. Corporations, partnerships, and other corporate entities must bring their action in Commercial Claims Court and are not able to act as plaintiffs in small claims court. These corporate entities are able to be sued in small claims 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.
What happens on day of the hearing?
You should arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the time designated for your hearing. When you arrive, look for the small claims court calendar (or the clerk). The calendar will list the cases that will be heard that day. They will be listed by the last name of the plaintiff and the last name of the defendant (or business name). If your case is not listed on the calendar, speak with the court clerk (or judge if there is no clerk present). In some courtrooms, the clerk may check people in as they arrive. In others, you must wait until your case is called.
When the judge or clerk calls your case, you should be prepared to tell the judge if you are ready for the case to proceed, ask for a continuance if you want one (and be ready to state a good reason for one), or any other request you may need to make. If both parties are ready, the case will proceed.
Can 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. Note: you can still file your claim after the five day window, but the judge then has the option of pushing back the hearing date (but no longer than twenty days). As the plaintiff, you have a right to ask for a continuance in this case.
How do I find the correct name for the Defendant?
If the defendant is a person, your job is pretty easy. Use the first and last name of the defendant (do not use their nickname). You will also have to provide their address. You should make it a habit to collect this information from all people you deal with. For businesses, it can be a little more tricky. Contact the Erie County Clerk’s Office. They will be able to provide you with the business’s correct legal name.
What are the filing costs for a case in Erie County?
In this County, the filing see is $10 (if the amount asked for is $1,000 or less) and $15 (if the claim exceeds $1,000).
How do I begin a Small Claims Court case?
How do I begin a Small Claims Court case?
You must go to the Small Claims Court to file your case. The court will provide the necessary forms. These forms will ask for a statement of the case. This is the term the court uses to ask what your case is about. Your statement of the case should be concise but still include all the important facts. If your claim arises under property damage or a contract, you may claim interest on top of your damages. 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. Once 21 days have passed, the defendant is deemed “served” unless the first-class item was returned undeliverable. If the defendant cannot be served by mail, the clerk can provide you with instructions on how to serve the defendant personally (the clerk will give you a new hearing date and time). Pursuant to due process, a hearing cannot occur until the defendant has been served. The court will dismiss the case if the defendant cannot be served within four months. Dismissal is without prejudice meaning you can refile if you learn new information that the defendant is still residing in that village or town.
Are there appeals in small claims court cases?
The window for filing an appeal is thirty days from the judgment (or thirty-five if you received the judgment in the mail). There are additional fees you need to file as well as determining whether a transcript of the case needs to be ordered. If you are interested in filing an appeal, check with the clerk of your specific court for the procedures and filing fees. An appellate court will only reverse a small claims court judgment if the ruling meets the “clearly erroneous” standard. Some parties benefit from consulting with an attorney prior to filing an appeal (to determine if it is even worthwhile).