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 witness testimony and will review exhibits offered by either the plaintiff or the defendant. The plaintiff presents their side first. Defendants present their case once the plaintiffs have finished presenting its case. It is important to speak clearly and slowly so that the judge can understand you. 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 Union County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Union County, a small claims trial may be in front of a jury or a judge. It is highly recommended that a party consult with an attorney before asking for 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.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case
Before a party files a case in small claims court, it is recommended to contact the party directly by 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. The demand letter is recommended because resolving a case through small claims court (even though quicker and simpler than a regular civil case) still takes time. 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. 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).
How to Prepare for a Small Claims Court Trial
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 recommended to prepare a short chronology of events or description of all of the facts surrounding your case. Details including dates, times, and values of damages or items purchased will be important for the court to take note of (and should have been included in your initial complaint if you are the plaintiff). 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. 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 witness refuses to attend the small claims court trial, then a subpoena for the witness’s attendance may be necessary.
How to File 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 through the court clerk’s office which is located inside of the courthouse. The party that files the complaint is called the plaintiff. The party being sued in the complaint is called the defendant.
Small Claims Court Locations for Union County
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Union County Courthouse 309 West Market Jonesboro, IL 62952
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:309 West Market Street Rm 101 Jonesboro, Illinois 62952
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 618-833-5913
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 618-833-5223
Can I file a case in Union County?
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 Union County, you can file the case here.
Serving a Party in Union County Small Claims Court
After a complaint is filed in court, it needs to be served on the party. Serving an individual is easy (if an address is known). Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. 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.
Union County Small Claims Court
Small claims court in Union 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.
What kind of cases are handled in small claims court?
Only the following types of cases can be filed in small claims court under Illinois law:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury
- 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).
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.
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. However, if a corporation is acting as a defendant, it is allowed to be represented by certain members of the corporation.
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. 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.