The Small Claims department processes civil disputes promptly and economically with informal hearings where the plaintiff and defendant appear without attorneys. The maximum amount that can be filed is $10,000.
The claim must be filed on the form designated by the court. The original claim must be sworn to and signed in the presence of the Court Clerk or a Notary Public. Upon receipt of the form and fees, the Clerk will file the claim and fill in the claim number. The filing fee of $37 must be paid to the Court at the time the claim is filed.
The forms must be completely filled in, including mailing addresses with zip codes. Only include a brief description of the claim at the time of filing.
The claim must be served to the Defendant. If the Plaintiff, person filing the claim, wants the Sheriff's Office to serve the paperwork, a check made out to the Sheriff's Office for $45 may be dropped off at the Court with the initial filing. The Court Clerk will then send it to the Sheriff's Office through interoffice mail.
The Defendant must respond without 14 days after the paperwork is served. The options are
- Pay the claim if full. Contact the Plaintiff for payment methods and the availability of payment plans.
- Demand a hearing. The defendant may file an answer and demand a hearing. The fee is $37. The court needs a current mailing address.
- File a counterclaim. The fee is $37. The court needs a current mailing address.
- Demand a jury trial. This option is only available if the claim exceeds $750.
Small claim cases are only heard on Friday mornings. At the time of the hearing, the Plaintiff and Defendant meet with a mediator to talk together and find a solution. At the end of mediation, the mediator assists the parties in writing an agreement that covers all parts of the conflict. Mediation is voluntary for all parties.
If the parties do not mediate, the hearing is held the same day. Both parties will present their testimony and evidence to the judge. The judge will then issue a judgment and determine how much if any money is due to either party.
Judgment by Default
If the Defendant does not respond within 14 days of being served the Notice of Claim, the plaintiff may enter a judgment by default. The plaintiff must file a signed and notarized Request for Judgment form
requesting that the court enter a judgment against the defendant. The Plaintiff may file the judgment for the claim amount plus filing fees, service fees and other statutory fees.
If a request for judgment is not filed within 60 days of filing the claim, the case will be dismissed and the file closed.
Writ of Garnishment
After the judgment is signed, the plaintiff may pursue a Writ of Garnishment. The forms may be purchased at a stationery store. The Court does not provide the forms. For issuance, the court must be presented with one original and four copies. The Court Clerk is not responsible for calculations on the writ and cannot assist the Plaintiff in completing the form. The fee for each Writ of Garnishment is $20.
Transcript of Judgment
After the judgment is signed, a Transcript of Judgment may be filed with the Circuit Court. The filing fee is $9. Once the judgment has been docketed in the Circuit Court, a lien record abstract may be recorded in the County's Lien Record Department. This shall put a lien on any real property belonging to the Defendant in Washington County.
It is the Plaintiff's responsibility to notify the court when the claim has been paid in full or satisfied.
Life of the Judgment
Judgments are in effect for ten years, at which time the judgment may be renewed.