Service of a Defendant in Small Claims Court
The court will provide a copy of the Affidavit and Claim that you filed to the Defendant. The plaintiff is required to pay the court for the cost of service of the defendant. Service is a way for the court to provide notice to the Defendant of your action so the Defendant can have proper time to respond and appear and provide a defense. Service can be made by either certified mail or in person.
Types of Cases in Small Claims Court
Small claims court only handles civil cases where the amount in dispute is $6,000 or less. A court can only award money in a small claims court case. If a plaintiff (or defendant in a counter-claim) is seeking specific property or an order from the court requiring a person to take certain action, the case should not be filed in small claims court. Common types of cases handled in small claims court include the following:
- Contract disputes including payment or performance
- Car accidents where insurance is not covering the damages
- Tenant and landlord disputes over the return of security deposit
The following cases cannot be filed in small claims court:
- Assault and Battery
- Any action based on intentional harm or damages
Small Claims Court Locations in Eaton County
56A District Court handles small claims court cases in Eaton County. 56A District Court is located at:Eaton County Courthouse 1045 Independence Blvd. Charlotte, MI 48813
The phone number for Eaton County District Court is: (517) 543-7500. The Eaton County District Court can be found online here.
Hearings in Eaton County Small Claims Court
The plaintiff will have the opportunity to present evidence first. The defendant will then have the chance to present their side. The court may dismiss the case if the plaintiff fails to appear. The court may enter a default judgment is the defendant fails to appear at the hearing.
How to File a Small Claims Court Case in Eaton County
The forms for a plaintiff to fill out to begin a small claims court case can be found here. The form needs to be filed with the court clerk. Along with the filing, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee which varies based on the amount of the claim. The fees for filing a small claims court case are:
- $30 – for claims up to $600
- $50 – for claims between $600 and $1,750
- $70 – for claims between $1,750 and up to $6,000
If the plaintiff prevails in the case, the court may award the filing fee to the plaintiff as part of the costs of the action. After the case has been filed, the clerk can provide you with a court case number. It is important to keep this case number with you to use each time you contact the court clerk or any court staff as it will help them identify your case. In addition to the case number, you should also be provided with the date, time, and location of the court hearing for your case.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
Before the hearing, parties should gather all documents, papers, and other evidence related to the case. This includes any contracts, written agreements, receipts, photographs, or videos that involve the subject matter of your case. Both sides will be given the opportunity to present their case. You should write out or prepare what you plan on saying ahead of time. If you have witnesses who also have information that will support your position, you should make arrangements to have them present for the hearing so they can present testimony.
Is a Jury Available in a Eaton County Small Claims Court Case?
Juries are not allowed in small claims court cases. Small Claims Court cases are only heard in front of an attorney magistrate or a judge. Attorney Magistrates are attorneys that have been appointed by the court to assist the court with a variety of legal matters (including hearing small court cases). Due to judicial funding, oftentimes, an attorney magistrate is used to hear a large portion of small claims court cases.
Small Claims Court Case Removal to District Court
Removal of a case to regular district court allows both parties to hire an attorney (if they so choose) and also removes the $6,000 limit that the court can award. If the case is removed, it also means the process will be much lengthier as the normal rules of evidence and discovery will now apply. A request for removal may be made by either the plaintiff or the defendant. To do so, a party needs to complete and file a Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims, in the court where the case is set to be heard. This document needs to be filed prior to the small claims court trial or hearing and can actually be filed the same day (so long as it is before the hearing starts). The Demand and Order for Removal is available on a website.
Are Attorneys Allowed in Small Claims Court in Eaton County?
Attorneys or lawyers are not allowed in small claims court. Neither side is allowed to have an attorney represent them. Each side is required to represent himself or herself in front of the court. Either side can request that the case be removed to regular district court (which means either side could then be represented by an attorney). However, regular district court follows the normal rules of evidence and procedures which mean the dispute will likely take significantly longer to resolve.
Small Claims Court in Eaton County
Small Claims Court cases in Eaton County Michigan are heard in 56A District Court. Small claims court is a special court in Michigan designed for people to settle monetary disputes without the aid of attorneys. A party does not need to know anything about the law to file a small claims court case. Attorneys cannot represent parties in small claims court. A party does not need an attorney in small claims court (but can obviously consult with or talk to an attorney about their case if they want). At the hearing, a party is only expected to present their case in their own words. Small claims court is a division of 56A District Court. The district court also hears some criminal, civil, and other legal actions.
Eaton County Small Claims Court Jurisdiction
A Small Claims Court case needs to be filed where the defendant’s home is, where the defendant’s business is located (if you are suing a business), or where the transaction or event that the case arose from occurred. The location of the filing is often called venue. If a plaintiff files in the wrong district court, it will postpone your case being heard and may result in you paying multiple filing fees or even having the incorrectly filed case being dismissed by the court. The court staff of the 56A District Court cannot provide advice, but it can tell you the geographic location the court serves. It is recommended you contact the court clerk of the District Court to confirm you have the proper venue.
How Much Money Can a Party Sue for in Small Claims Court?
Small Claims courts cannot award more than $6,000 to a party. If a plaintiff filed a case in small claims court that the plaintiff believes is worth more, the case can still be filed in small claims court. If they do, the party waives their right to recover any amount above six thousand. The plaintiff also cannot file an additional case based on the same case to recover the excess amount.
What Options does a Defendant have in Small Court Cases?
Once a defendant has been served, the following options are available:
- Ignoring the Case (which could end up with the court issuing a default judgment against you)
- Settling the Case Outside of Court
- Transferring the Case out of Small Claims Court
- Appearing at the Court Hearing
Will a Decision be made at the Hearing?
The court can make a decision at the time of the hearing (after both sides have presented their case). Or, the judge or magistrate might take the matter under submission. If this occurs, then the court will notify both parties of the outcome (usually through mail).
Resolving a Case without a Hearing
Oftentimes the court may try to settle a court case without a hearing. Mediation is the method by which a court tries to settle a case without a hearing or trial. In mediation, a mediator will meet with both parties, discuss the case, and try and work towards an agreement that both sides can live with in the hopes of resolving the case without a trial.