Magistrate court, also called small claims court, is an informal court that handles money claims of less than $15,000. This court offers a quick and inexpensive process to resolve complaints.
The person filing a claim in magistrate court is called the plaintiff. The person or business against whom the claim is brought is called the defendant.
The plaintiff must file a sworn statement with the clerk of the appropriate magistrate court, describing the charges made by the plaintiff against the defendant. This statement is called a statement of claim, or a claim. The statement of claim should include the following:
- The complete name, address and phone number of the plaintiff (and his attorney, if he has one.)
- The complete name and street address of the defendant.
- The damages, or the amount of money or property the plaintiff is seeking.
- A brief statement explaining why the defendant is being sued, including the date(s) of the underlying incident(s).
- Copies of all relevant documents, such as contracts, receipts and canceled checks. (Keep the original documents for your files.)
If the defendant is a person, the claim must be filed in the county where the defendant lives.
If the defendant is a corporation, the claim must be filed in the county of the registered agent for the company. Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State at(###) ###-####to find out whether a business is a corporation and, if so, the name and address of its registered agent.
If the defendant is an unincorporated business, the claim must be filed in the county where the business is physically located.
At the time of filing, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee, which includes the charge to serve one defendant. This fee varies by county and can range from approximately $45 to $55. An extra charge for service for any additional defendants usually ranges from $25 to $35 per defendant.