Bacon County Small Claims Court
What types of cases are filed in Bacon County Small Claims Court?
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
- Renter does not or will not ay for damages to rental property
- Renter fails to pay rent or Owner seeks to evict renter
- Landlord fails to return the security deposit to the tenant
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to make payments on a loan
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
Preparing for the Hearing
Prior to the hearing you should:
- Ensure you have all copies of any documents you need for the case. You should make at least two additional sets of copies (one for the court and one for the other party).
- Speak with all witnesses you intend to call to support your case. You should confirm they are available and willing to appear on the hearing date.
- If you need to bring in a witness to prove your case and the witness is not being cooperative with you, prepare a subpoena.
- If in preparing your documents you find that you need additional documents, you can subpoena documents from other parties as well.
- A subpoena is a command from the court for a person or documents to appear at a certain time and date to give testimony or produce evidence. You can obtain a subpoena from the Bacon County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
Can I file my case in Bacon County?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Bacon County, you can file the case in this County. If the defendant is a corporation, the claim must be filed in the county of the registered agent for the company. (Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817 to find out if a business is a corproation and the name and address of the registered agent). If you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Bacon County, you can file here.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. The actual filing fee varies amongst counties but is usually between $45 and $55. If an additional defendant is named in the action, there is an extra charge for serving the additional party. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
The Bacon County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give legal advice. A clerk would be able to review your forms to make sure there is a signature in the appropriate blanks but will not be able to tell you which party you should sue. Also, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win.
Can I hire an attorney for my Bacon County Small Claims Court case?
We cannot tell you whether or not you should hire an attorney. However, you may hire an attorney if you wish, but are not required to do so. You can file the case on your own (without retaining an attorney). These cases are tried and heard in front of a judge, without a jury (again, they are designed so a party does not need to retain an expensive attorney to represent them in a case). Some courts utilize mediation as a tool to resolve a case without the time and expense of a trial. Some counties will even require a case to attempt to be settled at mediation prior to it being set for trial.
How Much Time Does a Defendant Have to Answer?
After the case is filed, the clerk of the magistrate court serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
Bacon County Court Location
The magistrate court for Bacon County is located at:P.O. Box 389 Alma, GA 31510
It can be reached by telephone at: 912-632-7661. The fax number is 912-632-7662. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Joe Boatright.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Bacon County. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
Can the Defendant sue the Plaintiff?
The defendant is able to sue the plaintiff (this is called a counterclaim). The defendant can file this against the plaintiff’s original claim if the defendant’s claim is related to the plaintiff’s initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is less than $15,000. The counterclaim will likely be heard the same day as the plaintiff’s claim.
How can I file a claim?
The plaintiff (or person filing the action) needs to file a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. The sworn statement describes the charges made against the defendant (the person or business that is being sued by the plaintiff). At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if there is one)(Make sure this is correct as this is how the court will contact you if there are any issues)
- Name and strees address of the defendant
- The amount of money the plaintiff is requesting
- Brief, succint statement detailing why the defendant is being sued (include dates of all relevant events)
- Copies of all relevant documents regarding the claim (for example, any contracts, receipts, etc.)
- allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- Postpone the case until a later date
- The court can dismiss the case
Appealing a Judgment
A party that is not satisfied with the judge’s decision can file an appeal of that judgment. The appeal will be heard in the state or superior court of Bacon County. For the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (remember you aren’t entitled to a jury trial in magistrate court). The appeal needs to be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
Hearing Procedures and Mediation
Some counties require the parties to attempt to resolve the case through mediation before the court hears the case (assuming the mediation is unsuccessful). Mediation is an attempt to try and settle the case without a hearing. Even if the parties are agreeable to settling the case through mediation, a plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs. If mediation is not successful, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court will hear evidence and provide an opportunity for both the plaintiff and the defendant to introduce their evidence (and allow each side to comment on the evidence introduced by the other party). When both parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). The court may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, both, or none of the parties depending on what the facts of the case warrant.
If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the court may:
If the defendant does not show at the hearing, the court has the power to grant a default judgment against the defendant. It is called a default judgment because the plaintiff wins the case by “default.” The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
Bacon County Small Claim courts may also be referred to as Magistrate Courts. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
If the defendant fails to answer the claim or appear at the hearing, the judge can issue a default judgment without hearing from defendant. If a default judgment is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to what he or she asked for in the action and court costs. If the plaintiff is asking for non-monetary damages (like property), the court has to conduct a separate hearing to determine the dollar amount of the damages. The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.