Does a Clay County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Illinois, a small claims court case can be heard in front of a judge or a jury. If you are seriously considering requesting a jury trial, it is recommended that you speak with and seek advice from an attorney before making that request. 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. Additionally, a jury trial costs additional money for the party requesting it.
Small Claims Court Clay County
Small claims court is a special type of civil court where a party can file a case for $10,000 or less. Small claims court in Clay County uses simpler rules and procedures than regular civil court which allows cases to be tried or resolved quicker and by people who are not attorneys.
After the Small Claims Court Hearing
If the court finds for the plaintiff, the court is able to issue a judgment which awards monetary damages to the plaintiff. 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.
Who can be a plaintiff in small claims court?
Any individual or corporation doing business in Illinois can both sue and be sued in small claims court. If someone is under eighteen, the court may appoint a guardian to act on behalf of the minor. The court does require that any corporation acting as a plaintiff in small claims court be represented by an attorney. However, if a corporation is sued, it can be represented by certain officials at the company including an officer, manager, or registered agent.
How do I file a case in small claims court?
To begin a small claims case, the party needs to file a document with the court clerk called a complaint. 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 being sued in the complaint is called the defendant.
Filing a Small Claims Case in Clay County Court
Illinois law requires a small claims court case to be filed in the county where one of the defendants live or in 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 Clay County, you can file the case here.
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.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Clay County
Prior to a party filing a case, you are encouraged to contact the defendant by drafting and sending a demand letter. A demand letter is simply a letter spelling out clearly and concisely what your case is and why you feel you are entitled to monetary damages. Sending a demand letter is recommended because filing a case and resolving it in court often takes time. Additionally, collection of any court award takes additional time and is never guaranteed. If it is possible to settle your case before filing with the court, it is an option worth exploring. Additionally, putting down your case in clear words is something a plaintiff will have to do anyways when a complaint is filed (and certainly done in preparation for the trial).
Service of a Clay County Small Claims Court Defendant
After a complaint is filed in court, it needs to be served on the party. If the party is an individual, service is easy. But if the party is a corporate entity, it can be more difficult determining the correct procedure. Illinois allows for service of a corporate entity on the corporation’s office or registered agent. The Illinois Secretary of State website has additional information to allow you to search for addresses related to corporate entities and registered agents.
Locations for Small Claims Court in Clay County
In Clay County, Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Clay County Courthouse 111 Chestnut Louisville, IL 62858
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:111 Chestnut P.O. Box 100 Louisville, Illinois 62858-0100
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-665-3523
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-665-3543
What Types of Cases are handled in Clay County Small Claims Court?
Illinois restricts the types of cases that can be filed in small claims court to the following:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury
- repossessions of personal property that was leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment actions brought against debtors
A small claims court can only award a party $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Trial
In a court trial, the judge will decide the facts of your case and will listen to the evidence provided by the plaintiff and the 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 presents their case after the plaintiff has concluded their presentation. It is imperative that you speak slowly and clearly for the judge to be able to understand your side of the case. It is normal for all people to be nervous when speaking in public (let alone in front of a judge) so it may be helpful to practice talking about your case in front of another person (spouse, friend, neighbor).
How to Prepare for a Small Claims Court Trial
The most important thing about preparing for your trial is the ability to explain your side of the case in a clear concise way to the judge (or jury) so they can understand. Bring documents, photographs, contracts, receipts, or anything else that supports your position. It is recommended to prepare a short chronology of events or description of all of the facts surrounding your case. The court will pay particular attention to details including times, dates, value of damages so it is critical to have these details noted and documented ahead of time (and even including them in your complaint). 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 attend the small claims court trial, then a subpoena for the witness’s attendance may be necessary.