Small Claims Court provides a quick, informal and inexpensive way of resolving various types of disputes one has with other individuals or companies. Complaints heard in Small Claims Court include a variety of legal disputes, such as repair problems, breach of warranty, defective products, unreturned rental deposits, undelivered goods, insurance claims, damage done to property, etc. Often a party wants his property returned. Small Claims Court can decide claims for MONEY ONLY. The Small Claims magistrate cannot order a defendant to do anything other than pay a specific sum of money. So, you must be able to put a price tag on any damages you have suffered as a result of the defendant's actions. You must have evidence to offer to prove the damages. Small Claims Court does not have jurisdiction in such actions as libel, slander, repossession or cases which do not involve actual monetary damages. If you have a dispute with your mechanic, for example, you can base an action on your bills or the estimated cost of redoing his work. But, you could not ask the Court to make the mechanic fix your car or release it before payment of a bill. The monetary limit on the amount of damages that can be claimed on a complaint is $3,000.00, plus interest and court costs. The monetary limit on a counter-claim or cross-claim is $3,000.00 plus interest and court costs. If a counterclaim exceeds this amount, the case must be transferred out of Small Claim Court to the regular docket of this Court or to Common Pleas Court if the counterclaim exceeds $15,000. If you believe that you have a claim against the Plaintiff, you must file a counterclaim with the Court and must serve the Plaintiff and all other parties with a copy of the counterclaim at least seven (7) days prior to the date of the trial of the Plaintiff's claim.
An action in Small Claims Court begins when the plaintiff files his complaint with the Clerk at Meigs County Court at 100 E. Second Street, Pomeroy, OH. Forms for the filing of a complaint are provided at no charge by the Court and may be obtained in the County`s Court's office, Civil Division, located on the third floor of the courthouse. The claim states the amount and nature of this action. (See attachment 1) The complaint must be signed before a notary public or a deputy clerk. A filing fee is paid at this time. The filing fee for each complaint, counter-claim or cross-claim is $50.00 if only one defendant is named. If more than one defendant is named, the fee is $7.00 for each additional defendant. Before you file, make sure you know the true, legal name of the person or business you intend to sue. If you sue the wrong party, the case may be dismissed or, you could wind up with an uncollectible judgment. For example, a common mistake would be for a tenant to sue the resident manager for the return of a rent deposit, when he/she should have sued the owner of the building. Similarly, a mistake would be for a customer of a repair shop to sue the mechanic instead of the shop owner.
A similar problem can result from suing a business name without making sure it is the business's legal name. Unless the business is actually incorporated under that name, there may be no chance of collection, even if you should win. An unincorporated business (sole owner or partnership) must be sued in the personal name of the owner or partner, i.e., John Doe dba John's Repair Shop. (dba means "doing business as".) Only a corporation (Ex: John Doe's Car Repair, Inc.) can actually be sued in the company name. If you are unsure whether the business is incorporated, call the Ohio Secretary of State at (614) 466-3910. You may discover the business name is totally different from the actual corporate name, and it is the corporation identity you should be suing.
Finally, as a general rule, you should seek to sue a person or business in the county in which he/she/it resides or does business. Once you have determined who you are going to sue and for how much, go to the Clerk of Court's office to fill out a Small Claims Complaint form. You will pay the appropriate Court fees at this time. The Clerk will set the case for initial hearing. Although the Clerk may help you fill out the form, THE CLERK IS NOT AN ATTORNEY AND CANNOT GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE ABOUT YOUR CASE.