Can I file a case in McDonough 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.
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 judge will also listen to any witness testimony and will review exhibits offered by either the plaintiff or the defendant. The plaintiff presents their side first. The defendant puts on its side of the case once the plaintiff has finished. As the judge is deciding the facts of your case, it is required that you speak slowly and clearly so the judge can follow what you are saying. 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).
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. You should gather and bring anything that can support your side of the case including photographs, contracts, receipts, invoices, or other documents. It is useful to prepare a short chronology of the dates and times of the events in 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). Witnesses who support your side of the case should also be invited to court to provide testimony during the trial. It is important the witness is aware of the location of the court and the date and time of the trial in order to be able to appear in person. If the person refuses to come to court, you may need to take steps to issue a subpoena for them to attend.
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 small claims complaint can be obtained at the court clerk’s office. The party filing the complaint to begin the court case is called the plaintiff. The party that the plaintiff is trying to recover money from is called the defendant.
McDonough County Small Claims Court Location
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:McDonough County Courthouse 1 Courthouse Square Macomb, IL 61455
The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:#1 Courthouse Square Macomb, Illinois 61455-0348
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 309-837-4889
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 309-833-4493
After your Small Claims Court Case
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.
Types of Small Claims Court Cases
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
- repossession of personal property 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).
Who can Bring a Case in McDonough County Small Claims Court?
Any individual or corporation doing business in Illinois can both sue and be sued in small claims court. 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 sued, it can be represented by certain officials at the company including an officer, manager, or registered agent.
Service of a McDonough County Small Claims Court Defendant
After filing the complaint, the plaintiff needs to arrange for it to be served. 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. In Illinois, a corporation can be served on either an office of the corporation or its registered agent. This information can be obtained online at the Illinois Secretary of State website.
Small Claims Court in McDonough 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 has much simpler rules and procedures and is designed to try cases faster.
Can I have an attorney represent me in Small Claims Court?
Both plaintiffs and defendants are allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court or you can represent yourself. However, corporations acting as plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
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 a written summary describing the circumstances of the plaintiff’s claim and explains why the plaintiff should be awarded the money. 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. Drafting and sending a demand letter allows for both parties to explore the possibility of a settlement even before a case is filed. 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).
Does a Judge or Jury hear my case in McDonough County Small Claims Court?
McDonough County allows for a small claims court case to be either a bench (judge) or jury trial. 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 is much more complex and difficult for a person to represent themselves in and requires substantially more preparation. Additionally, a jury trial costs additional money for the party requesting it.