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Small Claims Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the Frequently Asked Questions regarding 48th District Court Small Claims Division. For a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions for the entire 48th District Court, visit our FAQ page.

Can the case be removed from Small Claims?

The plaintiff or defendant may remove the case from Small Claims Division to the General Civil Division of the district court for the case to be heard by a judge.

Where to file your Small Claims?

You must file your small claims case in the court which has the proper venue (the court in which proceedings may be instituted) for the area where the defendant lives, where the action arose or where the defendant is employed.

Can you sue a corporation?

You can start a lawsuit against a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation.

A sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation as plaintiff or defendant may be represented by a full-time employee who has direct and personal knowledge of the facts in dispute. Partnerships may be represented by a general partner.

How many cases can you file at one time?

A person cannot file more than five (5) claims in the small claims division in one (1) week.

A county, city, village or township may file twenty (20) claims in the small claims division in one (1) week.

How to start your Small Claims case?

Once you have established the proper venue (the court in which proceedings may be instituted), you have to complete an Affidavit and Claim - DC84 form.

To complete this form, you need to know:
  • The defendant's (person that you are suing) correct legal name, address and telephone number.
  • If you are suing a business, you must indicate whether it is a sole proprietorship, partnership or a corporation.
  • Reasons for the claim
  • The date the claim arose
  • Amount of money claimed - You may ask for court costs on the affidavit and claim by writing the amount of money claimed plus costs. (Example: amount of money claimed, $35 plus costs.) The Court will determine if costs will be awarded (costs include the filing fee, motion fee and service fee).
  • You must sign the Affidavit and Claim - DC84  form in the presence of a deputy clerk or a notary public.
  • Visit the Small Claims Fees page to find the costs associated with starting a case.

How is the defendant notified of the lawsuit?

The defendant (person being sued ) has to be served with a copy of the Affidavit and Claim - DC84  form by an appointed court officer, legally competent adult who is not a party, an officer of a corporate party or by certified mail for an additional $9 fee that is added to your filing fee. If you utilize this court's process server, the service fees are $21 plus mileage (the court officer will send the plaintiff a bill for service ).

When will my court date be scheduled?

When you file your small claims case, the clerk will give you a hearing date approximately 45 days from the date of filing, depending on the docket. All small claims cases start with mediation. If the parties are unable to resolve their conflict on the scheduled court date, then the case will proceed to trial that same day if time permits.

Call the Court before your court date. In order to prevent an extra trip to the court on your hearing date, it is advisable to call the court the day before the hearing date to ensure that proper service was obtained.

What needs to be done if you are not available for the scheduled court date?

The court may reschedule your case only for good cause shown. You may write a letter to the magistrate with an explanation and verification of why you cannot attend. For verification you must provide a copy of your itinerary, doctor's note, etc. Please include the date that you will be returning so the clerk does not reschedule the hearing while you are unavailable. Your request must be submitted at least 48 hours prior to the hearing date. You may mail or fax your letter to the court. You must also pay a $20 motion fee.

If the plaintiff fails to appear for the hearing, the case will be dismissed. If the defendant fails to appear, a default judgment will be entered for the plaintiff. The court will prepare the appropriate judgment. Both parties in these instances would have the right to file a motion to set aside the dismissal/default judgment within 21 days from the date the dismissal or the default judgment is signed. Download the Motion to Set Aside Default and Order - DC99 form to file a motion to set aside the dismissal/default judgment. If the motion is granted, a trial date could occur immediately following the outcome of the motion or a new trial date may be held.

Who will hear your case and what can you do if you are not satisfied with the decision of the court?

The case will be heard by a magistrate. The magistrate's decision can be appealed within seven (7) days from the date of the judgment. If the magistrate's decision is appealed, the case will be scheduled to be heard before a district judge. Once the judge makes a final decision, it is final and there is no further right to appeal.

If the magistrate/judge renders a judgment, the court will prepare the appropriate judgment and the defendant will have 21 days from the date of the judgment to pay the amount of the judgment. The court does not collect the judgment for you. If the defendant does not pay within 21 days from the date of the judgment, you may start collection procedures. Please refer to Collecting Money From A Small Claims Judgment - DCI84 to find out procedures on how to collect your money.

How long is a Small Claims Judgment valid?

A small claims judgment is valid for six (6) years from date of entry.

What do I need to file with the court when the judgment is paid in full?

When the judgment is paid in full, the plaintiff must complete a Satisfaction of Judgment - MC17 (file size 17k) form and send it into the court.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (mediator) assists communication between the parties. The mediator will assist in identifying issues, and help explore solutions to find a possible settlement. Furthermore, a mediator is not a judge. The parties voluntarily enter into a settlement.

Why should I try mediation?

In the traditional court process, the magistrate rules on the outcome of a small claims case. Mediation allows the parties to determine a solution that will provide an agreement that is satisfactory to everyone. Also, parties using mediation do not give up any of their legal rights and can always choose to continue with a regular trial.

What happens if the plaintiff or the defendant fails to appear for a hearing date?

If the plaintiff fails to appear for the hearing, the case will be dismissed. If the defendant fails to appear, a default judgment will be entered. The court will prepare the appropriate judgment. Both parties in these instances would have the right to file a motion to set aside the dismissal/default judgment within 21 days from the date the dismissal or the default judgment is signed. Download the Motion to Set Aside Default and Order - DC99 form to file a motion to set aside the dismissal/default judgment. If the motion is granted, a trial date could occur immediately following the outcome of the motion or a new trial date may be held.

What needs to be done if the lawsuit is settled prior to the hearing date?

If the lawsuit is settled before the hearing date, you must submit a statement in writing to the court before the hearing date advising the court that the case has been settled and the hearing is not necessary. The clerk will prepare a dismissal and mail copies to all parties.