Warren County Small Claims Court
Preparing for the Hearing
Prior to the hearing you should:
- Collect all the documents you need for your case. Also prepare extra copies for the judge and other party (or parties)
- 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 a witness is not cooperative or is not willing to appear, 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 piece of paper completed by you and issued by the court which commands certain persons to appear in court and may direct them to bring documents with them or to produce evidence. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for Warren County.
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 asks for damages that are not measured in money (like specific property), the court will likely conduct an additional hearing to place a dollar amount on the value of the property (or item being asked for). The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the claim. Once this time period passes, the defendant is in “default.”
How do I appeal a judgment?
If a party is not satisfied with the court’s decision, that party may file an appeal. The appeal will be heard by either the state or superior court in the county. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the judge’s decision.
Is Warren County the “proper” County for my case?
If you are suing a person, you must file the case in the County where they live. If the defendant lives in Warren 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. In order to find the registered agent for service of process, contact the contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817. If you are suing an unincorporated business, you must file the case where the business is physically located. If the business is in Warren County, you can file here.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. This filing fee includes the cost for the 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 is an extra charge for serving the additional party. The extra charge is usually between $25 to $35 and caries by county.
The court clerk can direct you to the necessary forms and will check them for completeness once you have filled them out. However, the clerk is prohibited by law from giving legal advice. For example, a clerk could review your forms to make sure there is a signature where it is required but cannot tell you who you should name as a defendant. Additionally, the clerk will not be able to tell you if they think you will win your case (so don’t bother asking).
Can I hire an attorney?
County cases, you may hire an attorney to represent you but are not required to do so. You can file the case on your own (without retaining an attorney). All cases are tried and heard before a judge, without a jury. You should remember that the procedures and rules for small claims court cases are designed so that a party should not need to have to retain an expensive attorney in order for their case to be effectively presented. Sometimes, mediation is recommended or required before the judge will hear the case.
Types of Cases Filed in Warren County Small Claims Court
These are some examples of the types of cases that are filed in magistrate court:
- Tenant does not and will not pay for damages caused to rental which are in excess of security deposit
- Tenant fails to pay rent and landlord wants to evict tenant
- Tenant moves out and landlord refuses to return security deposit
- A Merchant fails to address issues with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- A dry cleaner will not pay for clothing which was damaged or lost
- Unnecessary repairs or work done on a car by a mechanic
- 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
What are the hearing procedures?
Some counties require you to go to mediation before a hearing in front of a judge. Mediation is a dispute resolution tool designed to try and resolve the case by meeting with an independent third party who can evaluate the case and try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to all 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 takes in evidence and provides for all parties for an opportunity to present their case. 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 does not appear at the hearing, the court may do any of the following:
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.” It is strongly recommended you attend the hearing whether you are the plaintiff or defendant (regardless of whether you believe the case to be strong or weak).
How do I pick a hearing date?
In Warren County, the court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim. 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 Warren County. If a dispute arises between parties that cannot be resolved, a party can file the matter in magistrate court.
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. They are designed to quickly and inexpensively settle the dispute.
Locations for Warren County Small Claims Court
The magistrate court for Warren County is located at:
It can be reached by telephone at: 706-465-2227. The fax number is 706-465-1347. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Janice Griswell Thigpen.
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.
What are the procedures for filing a case?
A plaintiff (person who starts the claim or lawsuit) must file a sworn statement with the clerk of the appropriate magistrate court. A sworn statement states the claims made against the defendant and includes the facts giving rise to the claim. At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- 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 street address of the defendant (this is what the court uses to serve the defendant)
- Amount of money plaintiff is seeking (sometimes called damages)
- Brief, succint statement detailing why the defendant is being sued (include dates of all relevant events)
- Include copies of all documents relevant to the claim (perhaps a contract for the purchase of a product, or lease)(Keep the originals with you for when you appear at the court trial)
The defendant is able to issue a claim against the plaintiff. This is called a counterclaim. The defendant can file this against the plaintiff’s original claim if it is related to the initial claim and the amount asked for by the defendant is les than $15,000. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.