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). If the party is an individual, service is easy. Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. 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.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Trial
At a bench trial (or trial in front of a judge), the judge will listen to both the plaintiff and the defendant. The court will also listen to any witness testimony and exhibits (documents) provided by either side. The court will hear evidence from the plaintiff first. Defendants present their case once the plaintiffs have finished presenting its case. 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.
Can I 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.
Small Claims Court Hardin County
In Hardin 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.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
A party preparing for a small claims court trial should prepare the case to make a clear, understandable presentation to a judge. You should gather and bring anything that can support your side of the case including photographs, contracts, receipts, invoices, or other documents. 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). If there are any people who observed anything in your case, it is important to invite them to court to provide testimony at the trial. You should make sure any witness you need is aware of the location of the court (including courtroom number) and the time and date of the trial. If the witness refuses to attend the small claims court trial, then a subpoena for the witness’s attendance may be necessary.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case
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 funds after winning a judgment is not a guarantee. Drafting and sending a demand letter allows for both parties to explore the possibility of a settlement even before a case is filed. Finally, a demand letter allows the plaintiff a chance to explain in clear words the facts surrounding the issue (which is something the plaintiff will have to do in the complaint which is filed with the court).
How to File a Small Claims Court Case
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 defendant is the term that refers to the party being sued in the complaint.
Locations for Small Claims Court in Hardin County
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Hardin County Courthouse Main & Market Elizabethtown, IL 62931
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-287-2735
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-287-2713
What Types of Cases are handled in Hardin 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 cases
- 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 after the Small Claims Court Trial?
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it will issue a judgment of monetary damages. The law in Illinois requires that an appeal from the judgment be filed within thirty days of the date the judgment is entered by the court.
Who hears my case in Hardin County Small Claims Court
In Hardin County, a small claims trial may be in front of a jury or a judge. You are encouraged to consult with an attorney prior to requesting a jury trial. A jury trial is much more complex and difficult for a person to represent themselves in and requires substantially more preparation. Requesting a jury trial also has additional costs for the party making the request.
Who can sue 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. A corporation is not required to be represented by an attorney in small claims court. If a defendant is a corporate entity, only certain officers or members of the corporation are allowed to represent it.
Filing a Small Claims Case in Hardin County Court
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 Hardin County, you can file the case here.