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District Court Small Claims

SMALL CLAIMS COURT

Small Claims Court provides a forum that allows for parties to resolve money disputes up to $5,000. In small claims cases, the parties represent themselves. You may not have an attorney represent you. Your case will be heard by a Magistrate. 

To start a small claims lawsuit, the cause of action must have occurred within Eaton County or the defendant must reside in or do business in Eaton County.

Before filing your claim, you should assess the probability of you actually being able to collect on the judgment should you be successful. A judgment does not ensure payment, it simply means you have proven to the satisfaction of the court, that the individual you sued owes you the specified amount of money. It may be more difficult actually collecting the money from the other party; however, you do have (6) years to collect this judgment.


HOW TO FILE A SMALL CLAIMS LAWSUIT:

 

To file a small claims lawsuit you must complete the following:

 


Affidavit and Claim, Small Claims form (DC84)

    • The form contains 4 parts:
    • You must completely fill-out the entire form (all 4 parts)
    • Have your signature notarized (You may bring the completed form to the District Court and we will notarize your signature).
    • You must also pay the appropriate filing fee which is determined by the amount of the claim you are seeking. Please Click HERE to see the FILING FEE table to determine the fee.

 

  • You may pick-up a copy of this form at the District Court ($1/form).
  • You may mail a self addressed stamped envelope and $1 for the form.

 

While the staff of this court will try to assist either party to an action, it is helpful to understand that:

  • Our Clerks are not attorneys and are prohibited by law from providing any legal advice.
  • The Judges, who are attorneys, may not and will not give advice on matters they may have to rule on.
  • This court can render money judgments only, and has no power to force anyone to do something or to stop doing something.

 

By having your case heard in the Small Claims Division, you are giving up the following rights:

  • The right to have an attorney present,
  • The right to appeal to a higher court,
  • The right to a jury trial,
  • Claims over $5,000


WHO CAN FILE A CLAIM? 

  • A party who sues another party is called the plaintiff. The party being sued is called the defendant. There can be more than one plaintiff or defendant in the same action. An example would be when a husband and wife sue another husband and wife.
  • The plaintiff can be:
  • An individual who has knowledge or information about all of the facts in the matter
  • A partnership who has knowledge or information about all of the facts in the matter
  • A corporation who has knowledge or information about all of the facts in the matter
  • A Sole Proprietor who has knowledge or information about all of the facts in the matter


YOU MUST HAVE THE FOLLOWING BEFORE FILLING-OUT AN AFFIDAVIT OF CLAIM:

 

1. The filing fee

    • When filing by mail, send a check or money order made payable to: 56A DISTRICT COURT.
    • Mailing fees are subject to change due to postal increases.
    • Include a self addressed stamped envelope to return your copy.

2. Defendant's full and correct name

3. Defendant's current address

    • Route or post office box numbers are not sufficient if you wish to have a process server make personal service.
    • If you provide an incorrect address and the process server attempts service, he/she is allowed by law to charge you $10 for his/her time.

4. Amount of claim you are seeking and pertinent dates

5. A concise statement as to the nature of the claim.

6. At the time of the hearing:

    • Have copies with you of all papers to support your claims, such as:
        • bills of sale, receipts, guarantees, accident reports, leases, promissory notes, repair estimates, photos, etc.


WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU FILE YOUR CLAIM?
After you file your claim you will need to have the defendant served.

 


3 WAYS TO OBTAIN PROPER SERVICE:

1. Any competent adult (except the plaintiff) can personally deliver the affidavit and claim to the defendant.

    • This person must complete a PROOF OF SERVICE and return it to the court. (It is helpful to know the Michigan Court Rules regarding service of process)
    • The proof of service must be notarized or signed in front of a clerk at the court.

 

2. The plaintiff, on their own , can send the affidavit & claim by restricted certified mail from the Postal Service.

    • The plaintiff can bring an affidavit and claim to the Postal Service and pay the fees necessary for restricted certified mail
    • The defendant is the only one that can sign for the papers. The Postal Service will return the green signature card to the Plaintiff.
    • The plaintiff is responsible for returning the green signature card along with the proof of service directly to the court to show that service was completed.
    • Please keep in mind, that if the Postal Service allows anyone else to sign for the papers, then service has not been made.
    • The court can process and send the affidavit & claim for the plaintiff at the cost of $10.04 per defendant.

 

3. A professional Court Officer/ Process Server can deliver the affidavit and claim to the defendant

    • Court officers charge $21 plus mileage.
    • The Court Clerk can give you the name of the approved court officer or you can seek out your own process server.

 


SETTLEMENT PRIOR TO THE HEARING DATE:

 Often the defendant may want to settle out of court before the hearing date. If this occurs and the claim is paid, you should file a voluntary dismissal with the court.

 

 

SMALL CLAIMS HEARING:

 

  • On the date the trial is set:
    • Plan to arrive at the court a few minutes early
    • You must bring all paperwork, witnesses and evidence to prove your case.
    • No adjournments will be granted to permit you to bring these at a later date.
    • One of several things may occur on the scheduled date
    • The defendant may appear and refuse to submit to the small claims division and request a Demand and Order for Removal - small claims form. If this is done the case will then be transferred to the General Civil Division, which is the defendant's right. The defendant must then file an answer in writing within 14 days of the transfer and a new date will be set
    • The defendant may appear, admit liability for your claim and a consent judgment will be entered.
    • The defendant may fail to appear. If plaintiff has proper service and plaintiff can prove to the court they have a proper claim, a default judgment will be entered.
    • The defendant may appear, disagree with the claim, agree to have it heard in small claims division and the hearing will be held.
    • When your case is called, all parties and all witnesses will be sworn in.
    • The hearing is an informal matter. State your claim as simply as possible. If necessary refer to the papers or evidence you have brought with you.
    • The person you are suing will then have an opportunity to tell the Magistrate why they feel they do not owe you what you claim
    • After all testimony and evidence has been presented, the Magistrate will render a decision. If either party disagrees with the Magistrate's decision, they have 7 days to appeal.

** If service has been made and neither the plaintiff or the defendant appear, or the defendant appears but the plaintiff does not, the claim will be dismissed by the court.**



COLLECTING MONEY FROM A SMALL CLAIMS JUDGMENT:

 If you sued someone for money and received a judgment against the person, you have the right to collect the money. You can collect the amount stated in your Small Claims Judgment (DC85) plus any interest that accumulates during the time the other party pays off the judgment.

 

There are several ways to collect your judgment:

    • If the other party has the money and is present at the trial he/she can pay you immediately.
    • If he/she do not have the money at that time and you both agree at the hearing, the Magistrate can set up a payment schedule.
    • If the defendant is not present at the hearing, the court will send a copy of the small claims judgment to the defendant.
    • The judgment will order the defendant to pay you in full within 21 days.
    • If the defendant does not pay the judgment as ordered, you will have to collect your money through an execution against property or a garnishment.
    • To get an execution against property or a garnishment, you will first need to know where the defendant lives and works, what assets s/he has and where these assets are located and any other information which identifies the defendaant and his/her property.
    • If you have this information, you can start the process called execution against property or a garnishment. If you don't have the information you will need to order the defendant to appear in court or provide the information to you.
    • If the defendant was ordered to pay the judgment within 21 days or disclose information to you and hasn't done either:
    • You can file a Discovery Subpoena (MC11) to obtain the new information
    • There is a $15 filing fee.
    • You must wait 21 days after your judgment was entered to file for discovery.
    • Complete the front of the form, and the Affidavit for Judgment Debtor Examination on the back of the form.
    • The Judge must sign the subpoena before it's effective.
    • The subpoena must be personally served on the defendant
    • There may be additional fees for this service.
    • The plaintiff and defendant are both required to appear at a Discovery Hearing.

 


EXECUTION AGAINST PROPERTY

 You must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was signed before you can get an execution against property.

    • Use the form Execution Against Property (MC19) to start the process.
    • Complete the request & verification portion of the form and file it with the court.
    • There is a $15 filing fee.
    • The court will issue the writ(order) by signing the form and it will be executed by a sheriff or court officer.
    • Any property that is seized will be sold and the money given to you.
    • The sheriff or court officer is entitled to fees which will be deducted from the sale of the property.

NOTICE OF JUDGMENT LEIN

If the defendant owns any real estate, the plaintiff can also file a Notice of Judgment Lein against the property. If this is done, the defendant could not sell the property until the judgment is paid.

    • There is a $10 certification fee that is paid to the court and then the Notice of Judgment Lein must be filed with the county clerk's office.



GARNISHMENT

 

 You must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was signed before you can file a garnishment.

 

There are three types of garnishments:

  • Periodic
  • Non-Periodic
  • Income Tax Refund

 

 

PERIODIC

 A periodic garnishment is used to garnish the defendant's wages, rent payments, land contract payments, or other debt which is paid to the defendant on a periodic basis.

valid for up to 91 days or until the judgment, interest and costs are paid off,whichever occurs first.

 

NON-PERIODIC

 A non-periodic garnishment is used to garnish the defendant's bank account or other property.

Once money has been garnished under the non-periodic writ, the writ is no longer valid.

If there is a remaining balance on the judgment, you must get another writ to collect more money.

 

INCOME TAX GARNISHMENT

An income tax garnishment is used to garnish the defendant's state tax refund if they are entitled to one.

 

 


 

 

FOR ALL 3 TYPES OF GARNISHMENTS:

    • You fill in the names and addresses of both the defendant and the garnishee on the request part of the form.
    • The garnishee is the person or business who has control or possession of the defendant's money.
    • Once you complete the request, you must file it with the court
    • There is a $15 filing fee.
    • The court will issue the writ (order) by signing the form
    • The request and writ must be served on the garnishee along with the Garnishee Disclosure (MC14).
    • If the garnishment is for periodic payments, include a $6 disclosure fee

The cost of serving the garnishment varies.

 

  • In the case of a periodic or non-periodic garnishment, the garnishee has 14 days after the garnishment is served to let you, the court and the defendant know if any money is available for garnishment.
  • If you are trying to garnish wages, you will only receive part of the wages based on a federal formula.
  • If money is available, it will be withheld from the defendant right away. However, this money will be held for 28 days to allow the defendant time for objections. If there are no objections the withheld money will be sent to you after 28 days.
  • If the garnishment is for periodic payments, money will continue to be sent to you as payments become due to the defendant until the garnishment expires.

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