Seneca County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court Cases in Seneca County
The local town or village court hears small claims court cases in Seneca County. One can sue for $3,000.00 or less in a town or village court in Seneca County. Small claims court cases are designed to be relatively informal (compared to normal civil cases). If you do have a claim for more than $3,000.00, you cannot file two separate actions 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. 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.
Hearing Day Procedures
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 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 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 do I 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.
Appeals for 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). Appeals require additional fees to be filed. You must also determine if a transcript 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. 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.
How do I begin a Small Claims Court case?
You must file your case in the correct location (where the defendant lives or if the defendant is a business than where the business has an open office). The court will provide you with the necessary forms to be filled out. 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. 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 provides the defendant with the statement of the claim and the date and time of the hearing (this is called “service”). The clerk will provide ths notice through mail–both certified and first-class. After twenty-one days, the defendant is served unless the first-class mail was returned as undeliverable. If the post office cannot deliver notice of the claim and you believe the person still resides in that village or town, the court (clerk) will give you a new hearing date and will instruct you on how to personally serve the defendant. Due Process (a fancy way of saying fairness) requires that the defendant be served prior to a hearing on your case. 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 happens if I don’t show up for the hearing date for my small claims court case in Seneca 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 the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment based on the evidence that the plaintiff presented. Note: Court rules require that the judge wait at least one hour before holding a hearing or entering a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Jury Trials in Small Claims Court
A defendant (and only a defendant) can request a jury trial for a small claims court case. The demand must be made prior to the actual hearing date. The defendant must file an affidavit stating the issues of fact the jury is to decide. 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 it remains in small claims court, a jury will be used, but it will consist of only six members.
How do I get 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). 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).
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). You will also have to provide their address. You should make it a habit to collect this information from all people you deal with. Businesses can be slightly more difficult because you may not know the structure of the business. Contact the Seneca County Clerk’s Office. They will be able to provide you with the business’s correct legal name.
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is a dispute resolution process that is binding. 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. 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 uses the exact same law the judge would follow. The final judgment issued by the arbitrator cannot be appealed by any party.
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). A “defendant” is the party that 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.
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 you are younger than 18, your parent or legal guardian is able to sue 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 corporate entity is sued, it can authorize an employee, director, or attorney to appear and defend it in court.
How much does it cost to file a case?
In Seneca 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 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 Seneca County, mediation services are provided by:
Center for Dispute Settlement, Inc.
48 West Williams Street, 2nd Floor
Waterloo, NY 13165
If mediation is not successful, the case remains in small claims court (with a trial). There may be a small filing fee for mediations.
Where are the Small Claims Courts located in Seneca County?
Each village or town has in Seneca County has its own court to handle cases arising at that town or village. Seneca County has 11 locations to handle small claims court cases for the following villages and towns: Covert Town, Fayette Town, Junius Town, Lodi Town, Ovid Town, Romulus Town, Seneca Falls Town, Tyre Town, Varick Town, Waterloo Town, and Waterloo Village.
Here are the court locations:
Covert Town Court8469 State Route 96 P.O. Box 220 Interlaken, NY 14847
Fayette Town Court1439 Yellow Tavern Road Waterloo, NY 13165
Junius Town Court655 Dublin Road Clyde, NY 14433
Lodi Town Court8440 Main Street P.O. Box 33 Lodi, NY 14860
Ovid Town Court7160 Main Street P. O. Box 35 Ovid, NY 14521
Romulus Town Court1435 Prospect Street PO Box 274 Willard, NY 14588
Seneca Falls Town Court81 West Bayard Street Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Tyre Town Court1703 State Route 318 Waterloo, NY 13165
Varick Town Court4782 State Route 96 Romulus, NY 14541
Waterloo Town Court66 Virginia Street Waterloo, NY 13165
Waterloo Village Court41 West Main Street Waterloo, NY 13165
Is Seneca County the right place to file my action?
The action must be brought in the town or village where the defendant resides (or has an open business office).
Can I hire an attorney to represent me in small claims court?
You are not required to hire an attorney for a small claims court case. 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 plaintiff or defendant can choose to hire an attorney if he or she chooses. If there are attorneys representing both parties, the case may be transferred to the regular civil part of the court.