Service of a Stephenson County Small Claims Court Defendant
After filing the complaint, the plaintiff needs to arrange for it to be served. Serving an individual is easy (if an address is known). 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. The Illinois Secretary of State website has additional information to allow you to search for addresses related to corporate entities and registered agents.
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. If a defendant is a corporate entity, only certain officers or members of the corporation are allowed to represent it.
Is an Attorney Able to Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
You can represent yourself in small claims court or hire an attorney to represent you. However, corporations acting as plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Stephenson County Small Claims Court Location
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Stephenson County Courthouse 15 North Galena Avenue Freeport, IL 61032
The court’s website is here. The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:15 North Galena Avenue Freeport, Illinois 61032-0785
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 815-235-8266
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 815-233-1576
Small Claims Court in Stephenson County
Small claims court in Stephenson 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 has much simpler rules and procedures and is designed to try cases faster.
Small Claims Court Trial Preparation
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 attend the small claims court trial, then a subpoena for the witness’s attendance may be necessary.
After the Small Claims Court Hearing
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it will issue a judgment of monetary damages. Illinois law requires that either party wishing to appeal the judgment in small claims court needs to be filed the appeal within thirty days of the date the judgment is entered by the court.
Filing a Small Claims Court Case
The plaintiff needs to file a document called a complaint with the court clerk. A blank complaint can be obtained by contacting the court clerk’s office. The party that files the complaint is called the plaintiff. The party being sued in the complaint is called the defendant.
Beginning a Stephenson County Small Claims Court Case
It is strongly recommended to send a demand letter to the defendant before filing a small claims court case. 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. 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. 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).
What Types of Cases are handled in Stephenson 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 case against a debtor
The most amount of money that a court can award in small claims court is $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
Filing a Small Claims Case in Stephenson 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 Stephenson County, you can file the case here.
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. Plaintiffs present their side of the case 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.
Does a Judge or Jury hear my case in Stephenson County Small Claims Court?
Stephenson County allows for a small claims court case to be either a bench (judge) or jury trial. It is highly recommended that a party consult with an attorney before asking for a jury trial. Jury trials (in front of six or twelve people) are much more complex than a bench trial (trial in front of a judge) and require more preparation. Additionally, a jury trial costs additional money for the party requesting it.