FILING A SMALL CLAIMS CASE
**SMALL CLAIMS COURT IS FOR THE RECOVERY OF MONEY ONLY; NOT THE RETURN OF
A small claims action is commenced by filing a small claims complaint
pursuant to ORC 1925.04. You do not need an attorney, however, upon filing a
small claims case you assume all responsibility of the filing and of following
all actions. Note: Corporations are required to have an attorney at law
represent them in accordance with ORC 1925.17.
View Civil Filing Fees
The monetary limit for small claims is $3,000.00.
The filing fee is $45.00 which must be paid at the time the complaint is
filed with the court. If you win the same, the filing fee (costs) is made part
of your award.
The address of the party you are suing, or else where the incident occurred,
must be in Ashtabula City, Ashtabula Township, Plymouth Township or Saybrook
Township to file your case with the Ashtabula Municipal Court.
Small Claims Complaint forms are available at the court office or by down
loading from this web site.
The Plaintiff is the party who is suing and the Defendant is the party being
sued. You must have the complete name and address of the party you are suing.
You must state a brief reason as to why you are suing and provide copies of
documentation relative to the complaint being filed.
The small claims law provides that court personnel can assist you in reducing
your claim, counterclaim or cross-claim to a short and plain statement in
writing. Other than that, we are prohibited by law in advising you whom to sue,
how to set forth the facts of your claim, the legal procedure to follow or which
legal procedures are available to you or “What do I do next?” as this would
constitute the unlawful practice of law. See ORC 4507.01.
A hearing date will be scheduled by the court. Hearings are held within 45
days from the date of filing of the complaint. Some cases may also be scheduled
for a Mediation Session on a date prior to the Court Hearing in an attempt to
settle this claim without the need to have a trial before a Magistrate. You will
be notified in writing of the date and time of the Mediation Hearing as well as
the date and time of the hearing (trial) before the Magistrate.
SERVICE: A copy of the complaint and notice of hearing date is mailed by
certified mail to the defendant and by first class mail to the plaintiff. If
service is not made, the Plaintiff is notified and Plaintiff must request and
pay the costs for additional service.
No defendant is required to file an answer or statement of defense. However,
should the defendant, after being duly served, fail to appear for the hearing, a
default judgment may be entered against said defendant.
HEARING: The actual hearing (trial) is held before a Magistrate. At that time
both parties MUST have all their witnesses, papers, bills or whatever
they have in their possession (evidence) that will help in winning or defending
their case. Bring the “original” documents that you intend to testify from
and admit into evidence. At the trial you must prove your case by the
Preponderance of the Evidence, which means the greater weight of the evidence.
You must bring with you persons who have present knowledge of the entire
incident regarding your claim. Notarized Affidavits are not acceptable. The
Magistrate will not continue the hearing because you “forgot” to bring along
some evidence or did not bring along a witness. Bring all you witnesses and
evidence! You can subpoena witnesses through the Clerk of Court office. Do so
well in advance of the hearing date. You must have the name and address of the
witness and a $5.00 subpoena fee.
DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE: Based on the evidence and testimony presented to
him, the Magistrate will make a “Decision” either immediately at the hearing
or after studying the facts of the law. A copy of the Magistrate’s findings
and decision will be mailed to each party. The Magistrate shall submit a copy of
the decision to the Judge for consideration. The Court will adopt or modify the
decision by Judgment Entry. A copy of the Judgment Entry will also be mailed to
OBJECTION TO THE MAGISTRATE’S DECISION: Either party may file an Objection
to the Magistrate’s decision. This must be done in writing and must be filed
with the Court within fourteen (14) days of the filing of the Magistrate’s
Decision. If any party timely files objections, the other party may file a
response to those objections not later than ten (10) days after the first
objections are filed.
The Objections MUST be in writing and shall be specific and state with
particularity the grounds of objection. A copy of the objection must be
sent to the other party and indicate that you have done this on your objection
above your signature.
The Judge of the Ashtabula Municipal Court will thoroughly review the case
file, magistrate’s decision, the objections, if any, and enter final judgment,
which may be the exact magistrate’s decision or a modification of it.
CAN YOU COLLECT IF YOU WIN?
This is one of the most crucial but overlooked questions involving in suing
in small claims court. If the person you sue has little or no money or property,
you won’t collect a thing. The Court will not collect the judgment for you.
It is your responsibility to collect the judgment.
Generally speaking, if the person you are suing has a job, or you know where
he or she banks, or if he or she owns equity in real property other than a house
protected by a local homestead exemption, or if you are suing a solvent
business, you will be able to collect your judgment.
If you are awarded a judgment but have not received payment after 30 days
from the date of judgment, you may return to the Court to effectuate the
judgment by garnishment of defendant’s personal earnings (you must know the
name and address of his/her employer), attachment of defendant’s bank account
(you must know name and address of bank) or lien against real property. There
are additional filing fees for each of these methods of collection of your
judgment. The court has the forms for filing for each of these methods.
If you do not have the information needed to file a garnishment of wages, or
bank attachment or lien on real property, you may request, in writing, that a
Small Claims Questionnaire be sent to the defendant. The filing fee for this
request is $10.00 and must be paid at the time the request is filed. This
questionnaire asks such questions as where the defendant is employed, the name
of bank with checking and/or savings account, and address of any real estate
owned by the defendant. NOTE: The court does not guarantee that the
defendant will answer the questionnaire or answer it truthfully.
If the defendant fails the answer the questionnaire in the lawful time
limits, the plaintiff may request a show cause hearing to have the defendant
appear and state why he/she should not be held in contempt of court.