Area of Law:
Small claims courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that are designed to hear civil cases between private litigants. Their purpose is to prevent clogging up the formal court system with relatively petty matters through a less formal forum. Small claims courts also limit the judgments awarded. This limit is generally set at $5,000 – though it may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
The rules of civil procedure and evidence are typically simplified in small claims proceedings to allow non-lawyers to litigate their matters without the help of a costly attorney. Formal and costly procedures, such as depositions, are not allowed in small claims, and generally speaking, neither is a trial by jury.
Filing Small Claims in Cuyahoga County
Any individual over the age of 18 can file in Cuyahoga County Small Claims Court for damages of up to $3,000. You may bring an action in Cuyahoga County if the defendant resides there, the cause of action occurred there, or any property pertaining to the action is located there.
In order to file the case, you will first need to select the appropriate court. Small claims are conducted at any of the Cuyahoga County District Courts, but you must file your claim in the community where the defendant lives, operates his or her business, or wherever the event giving rise to the action took place.
The appropriate forms are all available at the courthouse. In filing, you also need to provide the name, home or business address, and telephone number of the defendant, as well as any information you need to support your claim. There is also a required court fee, which varies from court to court and with the amount of your claim. After filing, the clerk will provide you with a date and time for the hearing.
After you file, the next step is to serve the defendant. You must know the full name of the individual you want to sue and an address at which he or she can be served. In the case of filing a claim against a business, the process depends on whether or not it is incorporated. If it is incorporated, you have to include the name under which it is incorporated, as well as a name and address of either a corporate officer or the registered agent. If you have trouble finding this information, you may search the Ohio Secretary of State Business Division website.
After filing your claim, the clerk will attempt to complete service on the defendant on your behalf through certified mail, return receipt requested, and first class mail to the addresses you provided in your filing. As long as the first class mail is not returned to the court as undeliverable, the certified mail notice of the claim will be deemed sufficient to execute service. If necessary, the court may provide for other means of service on your behalf.
For more information about the Cuyahoga County small claims process, visit the Ohio Court System’s website.