WHAT IS SMALL CLAIMS COURT?
The Small Claims Court is a division of the Parma Municipal Court which allows parties to file MONEY ONLY claims up to $6,000.00 or counterclaims up to $6,000.00. Although attorneys are allowed in Small Claims Court, you do not need to have legal knowledge to file a claim, however, it is up to you to provide all the information to the Small Claims Clerk about the person or business you are suing.
Claims that are over $6,000 in value and less than $15,000 are heard in Civil Court.
Individuals and business – such as corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships – can sue and be sued in Small Claims Court.
Small Claims cases have no juries. Cases are usually heard by magistrates instead of judges. Procedures in small claims court are less strict than they are in other types of court, but the basic rules of procedure and evidence apply.
WHO CAN SUE OR BE SUED?
Venue is the location where the case can be heard. The Parma Municipal Court is the correct venue for your case if you answer “yes” to any one of the following questions:
Can you answer YES to any of these questions?
Does the person you are suing live in one of these municipalities…..
- Broadview Heights
- Brooklyn Heights
- North Royalton
- Parma Heights
- Seven Hills
Does the person you are suing conduct business in of these municipalities?
Did the incident or transaction that caused the lawsuit happen in one of these municipalities?
If you have a claim that only involves money damages that does not exceed $6000 total, AND you answered YES to any one of the questions above, your claim can be heard in Small Claims Court. A case may be transferred from the Small Claims Division to the Civil Division if:
- The Court decides to elevate it at any point during the proceeding
- The party who is facing a complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party complaint gives good reasons as part of their defense for why it should be elevated
- If a party files a counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party complaint for more than $6,000
A small claim can be filed by or against any individual, business, company or organization. Corporations can file claims through their officers or employees, but claims by privately owned businesses must be filed by the owner. If you are filing a claim against a business, you must know if it is incorporated. This information can be obtained by contacting the Secretary of State in Columbus. If the business is not incorporated, you must have the complete name of the owner. Sometimes this information can be found in the City Directory at the Public Library.
DO I NEED A LAWYER?
No, In Small Claims Court, most cases go forward without a lawyer.
Corporations and limited liability companies can sue and be sued. Corporations and limited liability companies may be represented by a lawyer, or someone who is not a lawyer, such as an employee. In Small Claims Court, non-lawyers can only provide testimony to facts that they personally know and they can provide documents to support their side. They may not examine or cross-examine any witness, present legal arguments, or do other things lawyers normally do such as present motions and prepare affidavits. Individuals representing companies or corporations should consult with a lawyer before trial.
HOW DO I FILE MY CLAIM?
The person filing the claim, the “Plaintiff”, can appear at the Clerk’s office between the hours of 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM at the court or the Small Claims Complaint can be mailed. (If the Complaint is mailed, it must be notarized.) The following information is necessary to file a claim: complete name, current mailing address, telephone number, date and location of the incident, and proof of value (i.e. receipts, estimates, leases, contracts, IOU’s, account records, or canceled checks) If the Defendant owes you more than $6,000 you will have to forfeit any money over $6,000.00, or file a regular Civil case.
Once the complaint is filed, notice of such filing and the date of the Court hearing will be sent to all parties. That hearing date will be approximately 4 - 6 weeks after the complaint is filed.
If you are a Defendant and believe that you have a claim against the Plaintiff, you can file a counterclaim up to $6,000.00. Counterclaims must be filed no later than seven (7) calendar days before the hearing date. If a counterclaim is filed, the hearing date will remain the same.
WHAT DO I DO AT THE HEARING?
When your case is called for hearing, have all the evidence you feel you will need to prove your case. If you do not present a document (with copies for the other parties and for you to keep) the Court cannot consider it in making the decision. You should also bring with you any witnesses you feel will support your claim. You may subpoena a witness to appear in court, but you should do this at least one week before the hearing. If your claim is due to an auto accident, be sure to bring your title.
When the Magistrate calls your case, present with your proof and witnesses, and state your case clearly, accurately, and honestly. Do not be hostile to the Magistrate or to the other party. After the Plaintiff presents their case the Defendant will be able to present their evidence and witnesses. Both parties can be cross-examined by the other party or the Court.
WHAT IF I WIN - OR LOSE?
Based on evidence and testimony presented at trial, the Magistrate will make a “Decision” after studying the facts and the law. The recommendation will be mailed to the parties or their attorney. Upon receipt of the decision, both parties have fourteen (14) days to object to the decision to the Judge.
- If the defendant has not made a counterclaim, a judgment in his favor ends the case.
- If judgment is awarded to the plaintiff for all or part of his claim or to the defendant for all or part of his counterclaim, the loser becomes the judgment debtor and additional action can be taken against him if his debt is not paid or discharged promptly.
HOW DO I GET MY MONEY?
Once you receive a Judgment in your favor, you may then start collection proceedings if the other party still has not paid. This is the hard part. While the Court can assist you in the preparation of forms for Garnishment of Wages, Bank Attachments or Levies, the Court itself cannot determine where the Judgment Debtor works, banks, or owns property. It is your responsibility to provide this information to the Court. If the party you sue has no assets, you may not be able to collect. Please keep in mind that the Clerk’s office employees are not attorneys and are not allowed by Ohio Revised Code to give legal advice. If you require advice, you must consult with an attorney.
A FINAL POINT
If you have any questions about Small Claims Court or a particular case, please contact the Clerk’s office at (440)887-7400 Ext. 7421. Although Deputy Clerks are not attorneys, they may still be able to answer some of your questions, or direct you to someone who can.