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Important Information for Defendants about Small Claims Court

The Notice of Claim is the start of a lawsuit against you. It should not be ignored! The person suing you is the claimant; you are the defendant. Carefully read the Notice of Claim for more information about the lawsuit.

The Small Claims Court is an informal court where individuals and sole proprietors can sue for money only, up to $3,000, without a lawyer. If you have questions about court procedures, contact the Clerk of the Court at 273-2263 or go to the Court and pick up of the Small Claims Guide.

You MUST go to the Court on the date specified in the Notice of Claim. If you wish, you may be represented by an attorney at your own expense. If you need an adjournment, call the Clerk of the Court at 273-2263 for information. Note that if you do not have a good excuse, your request will be denied. Any requests for adjournment must be in writing to the Court at least 72 hours before the date of the hearing. You may also ask for a jury trial by filing a Demand for Jury and paying the appropriate Jury Demand fee and undertaking.

If you do not go to Court or do not get an adjournment, a default judgment may be entered against you. If you do not pay the judgment, the claimant may have the Sheriff seize certain of your property and sell it to satisfy the judgment or, if you work, have a portion of your salary turned over to the claimant until the judgment is paid. The claimant also may obtain a restraining order, tying up your bank account.

If you have a claim against the claimant, you may bring a "counterclaim" as part of the lawsuit, for money only, up to $5,000. You must inform the Court of your counterclaim and you must be prepared to prove the counterclaim on the day you go to Court. You should contact the Clerk of the Court for information and filing fees if you wish to file a counterclaim.

If you believe a third party is responsible for the claim, you may be able to bring that party into the lawsuit as a defendant by filing your own Small Claim/Commercial Claim with the Court against the third party. You must inform the Court that there is a pending small claim/commercial claim and you must be prepared to prove your claim on the day you go to Court. You should contact the Clerk of the Court for information and filing fees if you wish to file a claim against a third party.

When you go to Court on the day set for the trial, be prepared for a simple, informal hearing. Bring any evidence necessary to prove your defense, such as photographs, written agreements, an itemized bill marked "paid", receipts, canceled check, etc. If you rely on estimates, two different written estimates of the cost of repairs or services are required. If possible, merchandise that is in dispute should be brought to Court. Testimony, including your own, is evidence. Any other witness also may testify. You may have to pay an expert witness for his or her time. If a witness is unwilling to appear voluntarily and/or produce records, you may contact the Clerk for information about getting a subpoena. Witnesses must testify in person. Statements are not admissible.

You may try to end the lawsuit before the court date by offering the claimant a settlement or by working through the Community Dispute Resolution Center.

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