Plan to arrive at the Court a few minutes early. Your case # and name will be listed on the bulletin board. You must bring all paperwork/evidence to prove your claim such as bills of sale, receipts, guarantees, accident reports, leases, promissory notes, repair estimates, photos, etc. A copy must be provided for each defendant and a copy for the court file.
Adjournments are not likely to be granted to permit you to bring this at a later date.
One of several things may occur on the hearing date:
- The defendant may appear, refuse to proceed in the Small Claims Division or request that the case be transferred to the Civil Division. This is his legal right. He must then file an answer in writing within 14 days of the transfer and a new pre-trial date will be set.
The defendant may appear, and admit liability for your claim. A consent judgment will then be entered.
- The defendant may fail to appear. If he has had proper service and you can prove to the court you have a proper claim, a default judgment will then may be entered.
- The defendant may appear, disagree with the claim, agree to have it heard in the Small Claims Division and trial will be held.
- If service has been made and 1) neither the plaintiff nor the defendant appear, or 2) the defendant appears but the plaintiff does not, the claim will be dismissed by the court
All small claims are scheduled for the same time. The Judge may have several or very few cases to hear. This is difficult to determine prior to hearing time. If you arrive on time and have all your witnesses and evidence ready, it will help him settle your claim promptly.
When the Judge calls your case, the defendant and all witnesses will be sworn in. The hearing is an informal matter. Do not try to play lawyer; just state your claim as simply as possible. If necessary, refer to the papers or evidence you have brought with you. If you furnished copies for the court file, the Judge/Magistrate can follow along.
The person you are suing will then have an opportunity to tell the Judge why he feels he does not owe you that claim. After all the testimony and evidence have been presented, the Judge will render his decision.