Madison County Small Claims Court
Do I get a jury trial 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 it remains in small claims court, a jury will be used, but it will consist of only six members.
How do I file a 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. 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.
What happens if I don’t show up for the hearing?
If you are the plaintiff, your case is dismissed. If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment based on the evidence that the plaintiff presented. Court rules require that the judge not enter a default judgment until one hour after the time set for the hearing.
Should I use arbitration for my small claims court case?
Arbitration is a type of dispute resolution that is like a less-formal trial. At an arbitration, an arbitrator (who is usually, but not always, an experienced attorney) will allow each side to present their case. He or she will then weigh the evidence and issue a final judgment. If both parties agree to arbitration, an arbitrator will often be able to hear a claim before a judge would (because there are more arbitrators than judges). The arbitrator applies the same law to your case that the judge would. When an arbitrator decides your case, the decision is final. There is no appeal-by either party.
How do I find the correct name of 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 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. The staff at the Madison County Clerk’s Office can help provide you with the proper business name (we recommend contacting them before you go to court so you do not worry about it once you are there).
How much does it cost to file a case?
In Madison County, the filing fee is $10, if you are asking for $1,000 or less, and $15, if the amount is more than that.
Do I have to 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 plaintiff or defendant can choose to hire an attorney if he or she chooses. If attorneys are representing parties on both sides of the v, (plaintiff and defendant), the court may transfer the case to the regular civil part.
How a Small Claims Court Case Begins
You must go to the Small Claims Court to file your case. The court will provide the necessary forms. One section of the form 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 small claims courts have clerks who can assist with questions you have concerning the paperwork. If the court is small and does not have a clerk, a judge will usually fill this role.
The clerk will provide the time and date for the small claims court hearing. 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 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 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. Due Process (a fancy way of saying fairness) requires that the defendant be served prior to a hearing on your case. The claim will be dismissed after four months if the defendant has not been served. 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).
What are Madison County Small Claims Court cases?
In Madison County, small claims court cases are heard in the local town or village court. 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 form of relief you can sue for is monetary. You cannot sue someone to force a person or business to perform a task (like fix a car) or return a personal item. A party can only sue for monetary relief. 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.
Am I eligible 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 someone is younger than 18, a parent or legal guardian is able to bring an action on behalf of the minor. 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.
Small Claims Court Terms
The party is a person, business, or other entity involved in a court case (on either side of the “v.” in the case name). A plaintiff (sometimes called claimant) is the person who initiates or begins the lawsuit. A defendant is the person or entity being sued (person who owes money). 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). 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.
Can I ask for a continuance?
The court may call a continuance an adjournment. The court generally discourages continuances in the interest of resolving disputes quickly and inexpensively. Only the court can give you a continuance (even if you have talked to the other party and agreed to a later date). 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 hearing date, but you need to be prepared in case the court refuses your request.
Small Claims Court Appeals for Madison County Cases
The window for filing an appeal is thirty days from the judgment (or thirty-five if you received the judgment in the mail). Appeals require additional fees to be filed. You must also determine if a transcript needs to be ordered. The small claims court clerk has specific information regarding fees associated with appeals. A court will only overturn a judgment if it is “clearly erroneous.” Some parties benefit from consulting with an attorney prior to filing an appeal (to determine if it is even worthwhile).
Where are the Small Claims Courts located in Madison County?
Each town and village has its own court to handle cases from there. In Madison County, there are [COURTSNUM] separate courts for the following villages or towns:Brookfield Town, Canastota Village, Cazenovia Town, Cazenovia Village, Chittenango Village, De Ruyter Town, Eaton Town, Fenner Town, Georgetown Town, Hamilton Town, Hamilton Village, Lebanon Town, Lenox Town, Lincoln Town, Madison Town, Morrisville Village, Nelson Town, Smithfield Town, Stockbridge Town, and Sullivan Town.
The small claims court locations are:
Brookfield Town Court10535 Main Street PO Box 103 Brookfield, NY 13314
Canastota Village Court205 South Peterboro Street Canastota, NY 13032
Cazenovia Town Court7 Albany Street Cazenovia, NY 13035
Cazenovia Village Court90 Albany Street Cazenovia, NY 13035
Chittenango Village Court222 Genesee Street Chittenango, NY 13037
De Ruyter Town Court735 Utica Street Town Hall Deruyter, NY 13052
Eaton Town Court35 Cedar Street P.O. Box 66 Morrisville, NY 13408
Fenner Town Court3151 East Road Cazenovia, NY 13035
Georgetown Town CourtMain Street, Route 26 PO Box 127 Georgetown, NY 13072
Hamilton Town Court60 Montgomery Street P.O. Box 119 Hamilton, NY 13346
Hamilton Village Court60 Montgomery Street PO Box 119 Hamilton, NY 13346
Lebanon Town Court1210 Bradley Brook Road Earlville, NY 13332
Lenox Town Court205 South Peterboro Street Canastota, NY 13032
Lincoln Town CourtP.O Box 101 Wampsville, NY 13163
Madison Town CourtPO Box 42 Madison, NY 13402
Morrisville Village Court35 Cedar Street P.O. Box 66 Morrisville, NY 13408
Nelson Town Court4085 Nelson Road Cazenovia, NY 13035
Smithfield Town Court5255 Pleasant Valley Road P.O. Box 146 Peterboro, NY 13134
Stockbridge Town CourtMain Street P.O. Box 143 Munnsville, NY 13409
Sullivan Town Court7507 Lakeport Road Chittenango, NY 13037
Should I use mediation for my small claims case?
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 Madison County, the mediation provider is: