How to File a Claim for Small Claims Court
Before You File Your Claim
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 (thrown out) or you could wind up with an uncollectible judgment. You will need the following information:
- The full name (and business name if applicable), address and telephone number of the defendant.
- Whether or not the defendant is on active military duty
If you are filing against a business make sure you have the correct legal name. An unincorporated business (sole owner or partnership), must be sued in the personal name of the owner or partner, i.e. John Doe d/b/a Doe's Service. (d/b/a means "doing business as")
Only a corporation (John Doe, Inc.) or Limited Liability Co. (John Doe, LLC.) can only be sued in the company name. If you are unsure whether the business is incorporated, call the Ohio Secretary of State (614-466-3910).
How and Where to File?
Where Do I File My Claim?
A small claims complaint must be filed in the municipal or county court having jurisdiction.
A court has jurisdiction if the transaction or incident on which the claim is based took place in that Court's territory. Regardless of where the transaction or incident took place, a court also has jurisdiction if the defendant or business is located in the territory of the court.
Once you have determined who you are going to sue and for how much, go to the civil division to the court to fill out the form.
How Do I File My Claim?
A lawsuit on a small claim is begun by filing a statement of claim which contains a description of the nature and the amount of the claim.
You will be given a copy of the complaint which will list the case number assigned and the date and time of the trial. Although a deputy clerk may help you fill out the form, he/she is not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice about your case.
Your complaint will be sent to the defendant by certified mail. If the certified letter is returned to the Clerk of Courts unserved, the clerk will contact you by mail for further instruction for service to the defendant.
If the complaint is not returned (addressee "unknown, etc.") it is assumed to have been served.
Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant are entitled to request one continuance of the trial date. Please be aware that the original trial date on the complaint may change. You will be notified by the Clerk of Courts office if this happens.
Unfortunately, filing suit in Small Claims court does NOT guarantee that the case will be heard there. Any defendant has the right to file a motion to have the case taken out of Small Claims and transferred to the regular civil docket. If this happens to your case, it may make it harder for you to continue without a lawyer. While you would still have a right to represent yourself, you would not enjoy the relaxed rules of Small Claims and should, therefore, consider at least consulting with a lawyer before going into the regular Civil Court Docket on your own.
What Does it Cost?
The filing fees are outlined on the Civil Page. These costs must be paid at the time you file. If you win your case, you will be awarded a judgment which will include court costs.