Ontario County Small Claims Court
Is Ontario County the right place to file my action?
A plaintiff has to bring the action in the village or town in which the defendant resides or a business has an open office.
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. 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.
Small Claims Court Appeals for Ontario 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. Consult with an attorney when you are deciding if you should file an appeal. 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.
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. Only the court can grant a continuance. 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).
What happens if I don’t show up for the hearing?
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. Court rules require that the judge not enter a default judgment until one hour after the time set for the hearing.
What are Ontario County Small Claims Court cases?
In Ontario County, small claims court cases are heard in the local town or village court. One can sue for $3,000.00 or less in a town or village court in Ontario County. 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.
Ontario County Small Claims Court Locations
Every town and village of Ontario County has its own small claims court to handle cases arising in that location. Ontario County has 17 locations to handle small claims court cases for the following villages and towns: Bristol Town, Canadice Town, Canandaigua Town, Clifton Springs Village, East Bloomfield Town, Farmington Town, Geneva Town, Gorham Town, Hopewell Town, Manchester Town, Naples Town, Phelps Town, Richmond Town, Seneca Town, South Bristol Town, Victor Town, and West Bloomfield Town.
The locations for the courts are:
Bristol Town Court6740 County Road 32 Canandaigua, NY 14424
Canadice Town Court5949 County Road 37 Springwater, NY 14560
Canandaigua Town Court5440 Route 5 And 20 Canandaigua, NY 14424
Clifton Springs Village Court1 West Main Street Village Hall Clifton Springs, NY 14432
East Bloomfield Town Court99 Main Street PO Box 388 Bloomfield, NY 14469
Farmington Town Court1000 County Road 8 Farmington, NY 14425
Geneva Town Court3750 County Road 6 Geneva, NY 14456
Gorham Town CourtPO Box 224 Gorham, NY 14461
Hopewell Town Court2716 County Road 47 Canandaigua, NY 14424
Manchester Town Court1272 County Road 7 PO Box 633 Clifton Springs, NY 14432
Naples Town Court106 Main Street PO Box 535 Naples, NY 14512
Phelps Town Court1331 Route 88 PO Box 219 Phelps, NY 14532
Richmond Town CourtPO Box 145 Honeoye, NY 14471
Seneca Town Court4224 South Street PO Box 536 Stanley, NY 14561
South Bristol Town Court6500 Gannett Hill Road Naples, NY 14512
Victor Town Court11 Framark Drive Victor, NY 14564
West Bloomfield Town Court2560 Co. Road 37 P.O. Box 82 West Bloomfield, NY 14585
What happens on day of the hearing?
We recommend arriving to court at least fifteen minutes before 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). Some courtrooms have the parties check in as they arrive. In others, the parties only check in when their 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.
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). The court will also ask for the address of the defendant (to send the notice of the small claims court case and hearing). Businesses are more tricky because sometimes you do not know how the business is structured. Contact the Ontario County Clerk’s Office. They will be able to provide you with the business’s correct legal name.
Small Claims Court Terms
A party is a person (or entity) on either side of the “v.” (plaintiff and defendant are each parties to the case). A plaintiff (sometimes called claimant) is the person who initiates or begins the lawsuit. 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). 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 hire an attorney?
In small claims court cases heard in the village or town courts, you are not required to hire an attorney. Small claims court rules and procedures are designed so that an attorney is not needed in order for a party to be adequately represented. A party does have a right to retain an attorney if he, she, or it wishes. 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.
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is a dispute resolution process that is binding. 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 will only be used if both parties agree (because it is binding). Additionally, you will likely be able to have your case decided faster than if you wait to have a judge hear it. 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.
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. 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 corporate entities are able to be sued in small claims court. When a corporate entity is sued, it can authorize an employee, director, or attorney to appear and defend it in court.
Do I get a jury trial in small claims court?
Only the defendant can demand a jury trial in small claims court cases. This demand can be made at any time prior to the hearing date. An affidavit (sworn statement) has to be filed which identifies the factual issues a jury is needed to hear. The judge can either transfer the case to the regular civil part of the court (where regular evidentiary rules apply) or remain in small claims court. If the case remains in regular small claims court, six jurors are used to hear the case.
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. The forms will ask for a statement of your 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. You may be entitled to interest if the basis for your case is property damage or based on a contract. 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 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 notice is sent by certified mail and first-class mail. 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 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). For purposes of due process (which is a fancy way of saying fairness), the hearing cannot occur until after the defendant has been properly served with notice of the plaintiff’s claim. If service has not been completed within four months of filing, the claim will be dismissed. However, if you learn new information of the defendant’s location, you can refile in that court (or the new court where the defendant is now located).
Mediation of Small Claims Court Cases in Ontario 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 Ontario County, the program used for mediation is:
Center for Dispute Settlement, Inc.
120 North Main Street, Suite 45