Gilmer County Small Claims Court
Locations for Gilmer County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Gilmer County is located at:#1 Broad Street, Ste. 203 Ellijay, GA 30540
It can be reached by telephone at: 706-635-2515. The fax number is 706-635-7756. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Roger Kincaid.
How do I prepare for the hearing?
The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:
- Make sure you have copies of all the documents you need for your case. Prepare copies to provide to the opposing party and the court.
- 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 Gilmer County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
Defendant’s Time to Answer
After the case is filed the court clerk serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. The defendant has 30 days to respond or answer the claim.
Types of Cases Filed in Gilmer County Small Claims Court
Here are some examples of common case types which are filed in Gilmer County Small Claims court:
- Renter does not or will not ay for damages to rental property
- A landlord wants to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Automobile shop conducts unnecessary repairs or work on your car
Procedures for the Hearing
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 a way for both parties to meet with an independent third party who can evaluate the case and try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both parties. Even if mediation is successful, a plaintiff can still seek to recover court costs. If mediation is not successful, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court will also allow the plaintiff and defendant to question or dispute each other’s evidence during the hearing. When all parties are finished presenting their evidence, the court will render a decision. 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:
- Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- The court can dismiss the case
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.
How do I appeal a judgment?
If you are not happy with the court’s decision (and generally at least one party, sometimes both, are not satisfied with the judgment), the party may file an appeal (or ask a higher court to review the judgment). The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Gilmer 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.
Can the Defendant File a Claim Against the Plaintiff?
Yes. 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. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.
Which County do I file my case in?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Gilmer 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 Gilmer County, you can file here.
Plaintiff has to also pay a filing fee which is submitted with the initial paperwork. A portion of the filing fee is for the cost for the court clerk to serve one defendant. The actual filing fee varies amongst counties but is usually between $45 and $55. If an additional defendant is named in the action, there will be an extra charge for the court to serve the additional party. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
The Clerk for the Magistrate Court can direct you to the necessary forms (and review them for completeness) but is prohibited by law from giving legal advice. For example, the court clerk would be able to review your completed forms to make sure your signature is in the appropriate blanks but is not able to tell you which defendant you should sue. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).
Filing Procedures for Gilmer Small Claims Court cases
The plaintiff (or person filing the action) needs to file a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. A sworn statement states the claims made against the defendant and includes the facts giving rise to the claim. The sworn statement should usually include the following:
- As the plaintiff, include your name, address, and telephone number (and your attorney’s if you retain one)(This is to ensure the court and other parties can contact you should the need arise).
- 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 documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
What’s a default judgment?
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing or respond to the claim, the judge can issue a default judgment against the defendant. If it is granted, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of damages asked for in the suit, plus 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 caim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
The court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim in Gilmer County. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
Small Claims courts are also called Magistrate Courts in Gilmer County. These courts are used to resolve disputes if the parties are unable to resolve the dispute.
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
Can I hire an attorney for my Gilmer County Small Claims Court case?
You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You can file the case on your own (without retaining an attorney). Small Claims court judges are heard and decided without a jury. Sometimes, mediation is recommended or required before the judge will hear the case.