What to Expect at a Brown County Small Claims Court Trial
At a trial in front of a judge, the court determines the facts of the case after listening to the evidence provided by both the plaintiff and defendant. The judge will also listen to any testimony from any witnesses and examine any exhibits (documents and photographs) provided by the parties. The court will hear evidence from the plaintiff first. The defendant puts on its side of the case once the plaintiff has finished. It is imperative that you speak slowly and clearly for the judge to be able to understand your side of the case. Normally, people will naturally be inclined to be nervous when speaking in public (and in front of a court), so it is recommended you practice discussing your side of the case in front of another person (spouse, relative, neighbor, friend) so you get more comfortable speaking about it.
What County Should a Small Claims Court Case be filed in?
The law in Illinois mandates that a case be filed in the county where (1.) one of the defendants live or (2.) the county where the incident or transaction involved in the case occurred. For example, if your case involves a car accident and the car accident occurs in Brown County, you can file the case here.
Brown County Small Claims Court Location
In Brown County, Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Brown County Courthouse 200 West Court Mt. Sterling, IL 62353
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:200 Court street Room 5 Mt. Sterling, Illinois 62353
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 217-773-2713 (Ext. 2)
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 217-773-3648
What kind of cases are handled in small claims court?
Only the following types of cases can be filed in small claims court under Illinois law:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury
- repossessions of personal property that was leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment case against a debtor
A small claims court can only award a party $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
Am I Able to Have an Attorney Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
Plaintiffs and Defendants can either represent themselves or use an attorney. But, corporate entities that are the plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Who hears my case in Brown County Small Claims Court
In Illinois, a small claims court case can be heard in front of a judge or a jury. It is highly recommended that a party consult with an attorney before asking for a jury trial. A jury trial (which can be in front of six or twelve jurors) is highly complex and requires significantly more preparation than a trial in front of a judge. Requesting a jury trial also has additional costs for the party making the request.
Brown County Small Claims Court
In Brown County, small claims court allows a plaintiff to bring a case if the amount is $10,000 or less. Small claims court has much simpler rules and procedures and is designed to try cases faster.
After the Small Claims Court Hearing
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it will issue a judgment of monetary damages. Either party is able to appeal the judgment issued by the court (which must be filed within thirty days of the judgment being entered by the court.
How do I serve a party?
After a complaint is filed, the next step is for the plaintiff to affect service of the complaint on the defendant(s). An individual can be served at their address. Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. In the State of Illinois, a corporate entity can be served on a corporation’s office or its registered agent. A plaintiff should visit the Illinois Secretary of State website to obtain the addresses for the corporate entity (and registered agents).
How do I file a case in small claims court?
The plaintiff needs to file a document called a complaint with the court clerk. A blank complaint can be obtained through the court clerk’s office which is located inside of the courthouse. The party filing the complaint is called the plaintiff. The party that the plaintiff is trying to recover money from is called the defendant.
Beginning a Brown County Small Claims Court Case
Before a party files a case in small claims court, it is recommended to contact the party directly by sending a demand letter. Demand letters are a written summary explaining the facts surrounding your case and why you are entitled to money (which should be drafted in a polite, clear, concise way). A demand letter is ideal because it takes time for a case to make its way through the courts toward a resolution. Additionally, collection of funds after winning a judgment is not a guarantee. If it is possible to settle your case before filing with the court, it is an option worth exploring. Drafting a demand letter also allows the plaintiff to explain the case in a brief manner (which has to be done when the complaint is filed in the court).
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
The key to preparing a case for trial is to be able to explain your side of the case in a way that is easy for the judge (or jury) to understand. Bring documents, photographs, contracts, receipts, or anything else that supports your position. It is useful to prepare a short chronology of the dates and times of the events in your case. Dates, times, and monetary values are extremely important details for the court to take note of. You should also take steps to secure the attendance of any witnesses that have information to help your case. Ensure the witness is aware of the exact date, time, and location of your small claims court case. If the witness refuses to come to court, you will need to prepare and serve a subpoena for the witness’s attendance.
Who can Bring a Case in Brown County Small Claims Court?
An Illinois corporation or any resident in Illinois can use small claims court to file a claim (and be sued as well). If an individual is under the age of majority (18), the court may appoint a guardian. A corporation is not required to be represented by an attorney in small claims court. However, if a corporation is acting as a defendant, it is allowed to be represented by certain members of the corporation.