Washington County Small Claims Court
Am I able to sue in small claims court?
In order to file an action, you must be 18 years of age or older. If you are younger than 18, your parent or legal guardian is able to sue on your behalf. Usually, corporations, partnerships, or other assignees are unable to sue in Small Claims Court (but they can bring an action in Commercial Claims Court which is located at the same court where your small claims court case would normally be filed). These corporate entities are able to be sued in small claims court. When a business, corporation, or other entity is sued, the entity is able to authorize a person (usually an employee, director, or attorney) to appear on its behalf.
Can I file my small claims case in Washington?
The action must be brought in the town or village where the defendant resides (or has an open business office).
Arbitration of Small Claims Court Cases in Washington County
Abitration is a type of dispute resolution that is less-formal than a trial, but more formal than mediation. In arbitration, a person (called an arbitrator who is usually an attorney) will hear evidence of the case that each party presents. The arbitrator will then weigh the evidence with the law and issue a final judgment. Arbitration will only be used if both parties agree (because it is binding). Additionally, you will likely be able to have your case decided faster than if you wait to have a judge hear it. The arbitrator uses the exact same law the judge would follow. The final judgment issued by the arbitrator cannot be appealed by any party.
Can I hire an attorney?
In small claims court cases heard in the village or town courts, you are not required to hire an attorney. The procedures and rules for small claims court are actually designed to be simple and informal so that a party does not have to hire an attorney and should be able to represent themselves. A plaintiff or defendant can choose to hire an attorney if he or she chooses. If attorneys are representing parties on both sides of the v, (plaintiff and defendant), the court may transfer the case to the regular civil part.
What do I do on the hearing date?
We recommend arriving at least fifteen minutes prior so you can have time to check in and make sure you are at the right place. When you arrive, look for the small claims court calendar (or the clerk). The calendar will list the cases that will be heard that day. They will be listed by the last name of the plaintiff and the last name of the defendant (or business name). If your case is not listed on the calendar, speak with the court clerk (or judge if there is no clerk present). Courtrooms have different procedures. In some courtrooms, the clerk checks in parties as they arrive. Some courts simply have you wait until your case is called.
When your case is called, you may ask the court for a continuance or adjournment or any other request. If both parties are ready to proceed, the case will go forward.
How do I file a counterclaim against the plaintiff?
As a defendant, you can file a counterclaim against the plaintiff (in which you assert that plaintiff owes you money). The counterclaim needs to be filed within five days of your notice of the case, or the court may continue the hearing to a later date. The filing fee for a counterclaim is $3.00. If the counterclaim is filed after the five days, the plaintiff can ask for a later hearing date (and sometimes the court may continue the hearing out even without the plaintiff asking).
How much does it cost to file a case?
In Washington County, the fee to file a Small Claims Court case is $10 (if your claim amount is $1,000 or less) or $15 (if the claim is for more than $1000.00).
Appeals for Small Claims Court Cases
A party has 30 days from the date of the judgment to file a notice of appeal (or 35 days if you were mailed the court’s judgment). Appeals require additional fees to be filed. You must also determine if a transcript needs to be ordered. Consult with an attorney when you are deciding if you should file an appeal. An appellate court will only reverse a small claims court judgment if the ruling meets the “clearly erroneous” standard. Some people find it useful to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to file an appeal.
Small Claims Court Terms
A party is one a person, business entity, or public entity that is named as a plaintiff or defendant in a case. A plaintiff (sometimes called claimant) is the person who initiates or begins the lawsuit. A defendant is the person or entity being sued (person who owes money). A third party is also sometimes brought into a case by a defendant if the defendant feels that the third party may be wholly or partly responsible for plaintiff’s claims. If you are the defendant and are interested in bringing in a third party, contact the court involved with your action about beginning a third party action.
Jury Trials in Small Claims Court
A defendant (and only a defendant) can request a jury trial for a small claims court case. The demand must be made prior to the actual hearing date. An affidavit (sworn statement) has to be filed which identifies the factual issues a jury is needed to hear. The judge can either transfer the case to the regular civil part of the court (where regular evidentiary rules apply) or remain in small claims court. If it remains in small claims court, a jury will be used, but it will consist of only six members.
How do I find the correct name for the Defendant?
If the defendant is a person, you should use the first and last name of the defendant and not a nickname. You will also have to provide their address. You should make it a habit to collect this information from all people you deal with. Businesses are more tricky because sometimes you do not know how the business is structured. If you contact the Washington County Clerk’s Office, they will be able to provide you with the proper business name.
Are continuances allowed in small claims court?
Should I use mediation for my small claims case?
Mediation is a confidential, non-binding dispute resolution program in which an impartial mediator attempts to bring both parties together to a mutually acceptable outcome. A judge may refer a case to mediation if both parties agree. In Washington County, the program used for mediation is:
Municipal Ctr. 1340 Rt. 9
Lake George, NY 12845
If mediation does not resolve the issue, the case continues in small claims court. Note: If parties agree, they can enter mediation even before a case is filed. Some jurisdictions may charge a small filing fee.
What happens if a party fails to appear on the hearing date?
If the plaintiff fails to appear at the hearing, the case is dismissed. If you are the defendant and fail to show up to court, the court will enter a ruling based only on the evidence presented by the plaintiff. This could result in a “default” judgment taken against the defendant. Note: Court rules require that the judge wait at least one hour before holding a hearing or entering a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Small Claims Court Locations in Washington County
Each town and village has its own court to handle cases from there. Washington County has 24 locations to handle small claims court cases for the following villages and towns: Argyle Town, Cambridge Town, Cambridge Village, Dresden Town, Easton Town, Fort Ann Town, Fort Edward Town, Fort Edward Village, Granville Town, Granville Village, Greenwich Town, Greenwich Village, Hampton Town, Hartford Town, Hebron Town, Hudson Falls Village, Jackson Town, Kingsbury Town, Putnam Town, Salem Town, Salem Village, White Creek Town, Whitehall Town, and Whitehall Village.
Here are the court locations:
Argyle Town CourtMain Street PO Box 38 Argyle, NY 12809
Cambridge Town Court845 County Route 59 Cambridge, NY 12816
Cambridge Village Court56 North Park Street Cambridge, NY 12816
Dresden Town CourtClemons Center Road Clemons, NY 12819
Easton Town Court1071 St Rte 40 Burton Hall Greenwich, NY 12834
Fort Ann Town Court80 George Street PO Box 295 Town Hall Fort Ann, NY 12827
Fort Edward Town Court118 Broadway Fort Edward, NY 12828
Fort Edward Village Court118 Broadway Fort Edward, NY 12828
Granville Town CourtPO Box 177 Granville, NY 12832
Granville Village CourtPO Box 208 Granville, NY 12832
Greenwich Town Court2 Academy Street Greenwich, NY 12834
Greenwich Village Court6 Academy Street Greenwich, NY 12834
Hampton Town Court2629 State Route 22A Hampton, NY 12837
Hartford Town CourtPO Box 14 Hartford, NY 12838
Hebron Town CourtP. O. Box 415 Salem, NY 12865
Hudson Falls Village Court218 Main Street Suite 2 Hudson Falls, NY 12839
Jackson Town Court2355 State Route 22 Cambridge, NY 12816
Kingsbury Town Court210 Main Street Hudson Falls, NY 12839
Putnam Town CourtPO Box 104 Putnam Station, NY 12861
Salem Town CourtWest Broadway PO Box 65 Salem, NY 12865
Salem Village Court181 Main Street Salem, NY 12865
White Creek Town Court28 Mountainview Drive Cambridge, NY 12816
Whitehall Town CourtPO Box 272 Whitehall, NY 12887
Whitehall Village Court1 Saunders Street PO Box 272 Whitehall, NY 12887
Beginning a Small Claims Court Case
You must go to the Small Claims Court to file your case. The court will provide you with the necessary forms to be filled out. The forms will ask for a statement of your case. This is the term the court uses to ask what your case is about. Your statement of the case should be concise but still include all the important facts. You may be entitled to interest if the basis for your case is property damage or based on a contract. Most courts have a clerk who can assist you to ensure you follow the procedures (and answer questions). In the few courts that do not have clerks, the judge can assist you.
The date and time of the hearing will be provided to you by the clerk. The clerk will “give notice” to the defendant of the case which includes the statement of the case as you wrote it and the date and time of the hearing. This is called serving the defendant. The notice is sent by certified mail and first-class mail. Once 21 days have passed, the defendant is deemed “served” unless the first-class item was returned undeliverable. If the post office cannot deliver notice of the claim and you believe the person still resides in that village or town, the court (clerk) will give you a new hearing date and will instruct you on how to personally serve the defendant. Due Process (a fancy way of saying fairness) requires that the defendant be served prior to a hearing on your case. The court will dismiss the case if the defendant cannot be served within four months. The case will be dismissed without prejudice which means you can refile with the same court if you learn the defendant is still residing in that location (otherwise, if the defendant moved, you would file it in the court of the new town or village).
Small Claims Court Cases in Washington County
The local town or village court hears small claims court cases in Washington County. One can sue for $3,000.00 or less in a town or village court in Washington County. These cases are designed to be resolved informally (so a party does not have to hire an attorney). If you do have a claim for more than $3,000.00, you cannot file two separate actions to bring it under the limit. The only form of relief you can sue for is monetary. A party cannot sue to ask the court to order a defendant to take action (ie. fulfill the terms of an advertisement). Money is the only remedy available (on claims and counterclaims). A plaintiff or claimant can also sue a public entity like a city or other agency. However, you have to file a claim with that agency before filing your small claims court action. The claim must be filed within ninety days of the incident. If you fail to follow this rule, your case will be dismissed.