Small Claims Court Jefferson County
Small claims court in Jefferson County is a unique type of court where a plaintiff can file a case in an amount of $10,000 or less. Small claims court in Jefferson 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.
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 plaintiff presents their side first. The defendant presents their case after the plaintiff has concluded their presentation. It is important to speak clearly and slowly so that the judge can understand you. 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 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 small claims complaint can be obtained at the court clerk’s office. The party that files the complaint is called the plaintiff. The defendant is the term that refers to the party being sued in the complaint.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Jefferson 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. A demand letter is ideal because it takes time for a case to make its way through the courts toward a resolution. Also, collecting funds after prevailing in court can take more time and is not guaranteed. 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).
Am I Able to Have an Attorney Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
You can represent yourself in small claims court or hire an attorney to represent you. However, when a corporate entity is the plaintiff in a case, it is required to be represented by an attorney.
Types of Small Claims Court Cases
In Illinois, only certain types of cases are handled in small claims court:
- 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).
After your Small Claims Court Case
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the judge can issue an order or judgment awarding the plaintiff 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.
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. You should gather and bring anything that can support your side of the case including photographs, contracts, receipts, invoices, or other documents. Preparing a short chronology of the events in your case is helpful. 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 come to court, you will need to prepare and serve a subpoena for the witness’s attendance.
Who can be a plaintiff in small claims court?
Small claims court can be used by any resident of Illinois or Illinois corporation (both as a plaintiff or a defendant). If someone is under eighteen, the court may appoint a guardian to act on behalf of the minor. If a corporation sues in small claims court, they will need to 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.
Jefferson County Small Claims Court Location
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Jefferson County Courthouse 100 S. 10th Street Mt. Vernon, IL 62864
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:P.O. Box 1266 Mt. Vernon, Illinois 62864-1266
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-244-8008
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-244-8029
Can I file a case in Jefferson County?
In Illinois, a small claims court case must be filed in the county where one of the defendants live or in the county in which the incident or transaction took place. For example, if the case involved property damage, the case could be filed in the county where the property is located.
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. However, it can be more difficult finding a way to serve a corporate entity. In the State of Illinois, a corporate entity can be served on a corporation’s office or its registered agent. This information can be obtained online at the Illinois Secretary of State website.
Does a Jefferson County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
Jefferson County allows for a small claims court case to be either a bench (judge) or jury trial. You are encouraged to consult with an attorney prior to requesting 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.