Frequently Asked Questions - Small Claims
This information is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.
- In Ohio, municipal and county courts are required to establish a small claims division, commonly known as small claims court. The purpose is to resolve minor disputes fairly, quickly and inexpensively.
- The procedures in small claims court are simpler than other cases. The hearing is informal; there is no jury; the rules are relaxed; court costs are lower; the maximum amount of recovery is $6,000.00 exclusive of costs and interest.
- Small claims cases are like other lawsuits, except that the amount is too small to make the expense of a regular court proceeding worthwhile. Small claims actions can only be to award money damages.
- Typical small claims cases are: claim by a tenant to recover a security deposit, claim by landlord for unpaid rent or damage; claim by a buyer for defective merchandise; claims by a business for an unpaid bill; claims for minor damage in a car accident and claims for unpaid wages.
- An attorney is not necessary in a small claims case, but attorneys are welcome.
- Small claims may not be heard on certain types of suit; libel, slander, malicious prosecution or suits seeking punitive damages. Citizens should speak to an attorney if they have questions.
- Cases may start out in small claims, but if the claim expands to include damages over $6,000.00 it may be transferred to the civil division of the Cour.
- Come to the Courthouse on the first floor and fill out the small claim form. You will need the proper name and address of the person/company you wish to sue.
- You will need to pay the filing fee that day. Personal checks are not accepted.
- Make sure that the Court has jurisdiction over your claim. In other words, the person you wish to sue is a resident of Noble County or the claims happened here.
- Be prepared to write out a description of your claim; in other words, why they owe you money and the amount owed. Be clear and concise, and write legibly. This form will be sent to the party you are suing.
- The Clerk will serve a copy of your small claimby certified mail on the Defendant.
- If the Clerk is unable to serve them, you may be asked to provide another address.
- The Defendant is not required to file an answer, so immediately after service, the claim will be set for trial.
- Organize your testimony and arguments so the Court will be able to understand the facts. It is best to write down your thoughts in advance and organize them in a time line so that you can explain them to the Court in an orderly manner.
- Gather evidence that will help you prove your case by collecting documents related to your claims. Examples are: reciepts, cancelled checks, estimated bills, contracts, photographs. Bring an extra copy of each so that you can provide a copy to the opposing party. If your photos are on your phone, you will need to print out a paper copy for the Court.
- Alert your witnesses to the date of the trial. If necessary, you may subpoena witnesses who will not appear voluntarily.
- Be on time! If the Plaintiff is late or absent, the case may be dismissed. If the Defendant is late or absent, a default judgment may be granted.
- The Court will call the case and ask the parties the status of the matter. For example, if the tenant has already vacated, the matter may be resolved without a trial.
- Trial is where you present your evidence supporting your claim for money damages. The Plaintiff presents his/her evidence first. After the Plaintiff presents evidence, the Defendant may ask the Plaintiff questions. The Defendant may also ask questions of any witnesses who present testimony. Next, the Defendant presents evidence. The Plaintiff may also ask questions of the Defendant after they testify.
- REMINDER: a person representing a corporation or limited liability company without a lawyer may not ask questions of any witness.
- Evidence may include relevant testimony of witnesses, and relevant documents. Remember to bring extra copies as the court will keep your original. Photos on a cellular phone must be printed out as the Court cannot keep your phone as evidence.
- Witness testimony must be from a witness with first-hand knowledge of the facts. Written or recorded statements from witnesses who are not present at trial are considered hearsay and cannot be considered by the court.
- The Court may ask questions to clear up testimony. It is important that only one person speak at a time as the trial is being recorded. Please remain polite to the Court and the other party; do not interrupt or argue.
- After hearing the evidence regarding damages, the Court will issue a written decision after reviewing all the evidence and the testimony.
- If the parties disagree with either decision of the Court, they have the right to appeal. Specific questions regarding appeal should be directed to a qualified attorney.
Any Questions not resolved by this document should be addresses to a qualified attorney. Court clerks are not attorneys and are not permitted to give parties legal advice.