Hamilton County Small Claims Court
What do I do on the hearing date?
You should arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the time designated for your hearing. When you arrive, you should look for the small claims court calendar or for a clerk to assist you. 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.
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 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. However, these entities are able to be sued in small claims court by people. 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.
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). The court will also ask for the address of the defendant (to send the notice of the small claims court case and hearing). For businesses, it can be a little more tricky. If you contact the Hamilton County Clerk’s Office, they will be able to provide you with the proper business name.
What is arbitration?
Abitration is a type of dispute resolution that is less-formal than a trial, but more formal than mediation. In arbitration, a person (called an arbitrator who is usually an attorney) will hear evidence of the case that each party presents. The arbitrator will then weigh the evidence with the law and issue a final judgment. 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. When an arbitrator decides your case, the decision is final. There is no appeal-by either party.
Hamilton County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court cases are heard in the town or village court for Hamilton County. The limit a plaintiff can ask for is $3,000. The purpose of small claims court and the motivation behind the relaxed evidentiary rules and procedures is to allow these cases to be resolved informally and without making a party 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. The only form of relief you can sue for is monetary. A party cannot sue to ask the court to order a defendant to take action (ie. fulfill the terms of an advertisement). 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.
Small Claims Court Lingo
A party is one a person, business entity, or public entity that is named as a plaintiff or defendant in a 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. A third party is also sometimes brought into a case by a defendant if the defendant feels that the third party may be wholly or partly responsible for plaintiff’s claims. If you are interested in filing a third party claim (as a defendant), contact the local clerk for the filing fees and local procedures.
Hamilton County Small Claims Court Locations
Every town and village of Hamilton County has its own small claims court to handle cases arising in that location. Hamilton County Small Claims Cases are handled in 9 locations for the following towns and villages: Arietta Town, Benson Town, Hope Town, Indian Lake Town, Inlet Town, Lake Pleasant Town, Long Lake Town, Morehouse Town, and Wells Town.
Here are the court locations:
Arietta Town CourtOld Piseco Road PO Box 4 Piseco, NY 12139
Benson Town CourtP.O. Box 1017 Northville, NY 12134
Hope Town Court548 St Rt 30 Town Hall Northville, NY 12134
Indian Lake Town CourtTown Hall, Pelon Road P.O. Box 730 Indian Lake, NY 12842
Inlet Town Court160 Route 28 Municipal Building Inlet, NY 13360
Lake Pleasant Town CourtPO Box 358 Speculator, NY 12164
Long Lake Town CourtPO Box 697 Town Hall Long Lake, NY 12847
Morehouse Town CourtPO Box 5 Hoffmeister, NY 13353
Wells Town Court1382 State Route 30 P.O. Box 222 Wells, NY 12190
How do I counterclaim against the plaintiff?
As a defendant, you can file a counterclaim against the plaintiff (in which you assert that plaintiff owes you money). The counterclaim needs to be filed within five days of your notice of the case, or the court may continue the hearing to a later date. The filing fee for a counterclaim is $3.00. 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.
What is mediation?
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 Hamilton County, mediation services are provided by:
North Country Conflict Resolution Services
Rural Law Center of New York, Inc.
22 U.S. Oval, Suite 203