Orleans County Small Claims Court
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. 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.
Are continuances allowed in small claims court?
How do I file a counterclaim against the plaintiff?
A defendant may file a counterclaim against a plaintiff. If the counterclaim is filed within five days of being served with the initial claim, the hearing date remains the same. There is a $3 filing fee. 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.
Where are the Small Claims Courts located in Orleans County?
Each town and village has its own court to handle cases from there. Orleans County has 11 locations to handle small claims court cases for the following villages and towns: Albion Town, Barre Town, Carlton Town, Clarendon Town, Gaines Town, Kendall Town, Medina Village, Murray Town, Ridgeway Town, Shelby Town, and Yates Town.
Here are the court locations:
Albion Town Court3665 Clarendon Road Albion, NY 14411
Barre Town Court14317 West Barre Road Albion, NY 14411
Carlton Town Court1434 Carlton/Waterport Road Albion, NY 14411
Clarendon Town CourtPO Box 145 Clarendon, NY 14429
Gaines Town Court14087 Ridge Road Albion, NY 14411
Kendall Town Court1873 Kendall Road Kendall, NY 14476
Medina Village Court600 Main Street Medina, NY 14103
Murray Town Court3840 Fancher Road Holley, NY 14470
Ridgeway Town Court4062 Salt Works Road Medina, NY 14103
Shelby Town Court4062 Salt Works Road Medina, NY 14103
Yates Town Court8 South Main Street PO Box 484 Lyndonville, NY 14098
Should I use mediation for my small claims case?
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 Orleans County, the program used for mediation is:
Center for Resolution and Justice
Child and Family Services
Genesee County Courts Building
One West Main Street
Batavia, NY 14020
(585) 344-2580, ext. 2440
If mediation is not successful, the case remains in small claims court (with a trial). There may be a small filing fee for mediations.
What happens if a party fails to appear on the hearing date?
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 the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment based on the evidence that the plaintiff presented. The Court will wait approximately one hour (in case you are simply running late) before granting a default judgment.
Can I hire an attorney to represent me in small claims court?
You do not have to hire an attorney to represent you in small claims court (even if you are a business). 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.
Can I file my small claims case in Orleans?
You must bring your action in the municipality (location – village or town) in which the person or business you are suing resides (lives) or has an office open for business.
Are there appeals in small claims court cases?
A party has 30 days from the date of the judgment to file a notice of appeal (or 35 days if you were mailed the court’s judgment). There are fees for filing a notice of appeal as well as additional costs for purchasing a transcript (if a court reporter was present). 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.” This is why we recommend consulting an attorney to determine if an appeal is appropriate.
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). 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. 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.
Small Claims Court Cases in Orleans County
In Orleans County, small claims court cases are heard in the local town or village court. The limit a plaintiff can ask for is $3,000. These cases are designed to be resolved informally (so a party does not have to hire an attorney). 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). Money is the only remedy available (on claims and counterclaims). 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.
What do I do on the hearing date?
We recommend arriving at least fifteen minutes prior so you can have time to check in and make sure you are at the right place. When you arrive, you should look for the small claims court calendar or for a clerk to assist you. Cases are listed on the calendar by the last name of the plaintiff and the last name of the defendant (or full name of the business or other entity). If your case is not listed on the calendar, speak with the court clerk (or judge if there is no clerk present). 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.
How much does it cost to file a case?
In Orleans 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).
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 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 applies the same law to your case that the judge would. An arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
How do I find 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). For businesses, it can be a little more tricky. If you contact the Orleans County Clerk’s Office, they will be able to provide you with the proper business name.
Beginning a Small Claims Court Case
You must go to the Small Claims Court to file your case. Visit the court for that town or village, and the court will provide you with the paperwork to begin the action. 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. You should note in the statement of the case if you are requesting interest (which happens if your case concerns property damage or a contract specifies an interest amount). A court will generally have a clerk who is available to assist with questions regarding the forms (and answer other questions). If a court does not have a clerk, generally the judge is available to help you with these questions.
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 sends the notice via certified and first-class mail. After twenty-one days, the defendant is served unless the first-class mail was returned as undeliverable. 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. 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.
What about a jury trial for a small claims court case in Orleans County?
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.