What happens at the trial?

If the Plaintiff does not appear for the trial on the scheduled Court date, the case will be dismissed. If the Defendant does not appear, the Plaintiff will be sworn to testify about the matter. In most instances the failure of the Defendant to appear will result in a Default Judgment, which means that the Plaintiff has won the case for the amount claimed in the Affidavit (up to the maximum jurisdiction of the Court, plus Court costs), and the money must be paid by the Defendant. Cost comprise the $10 filing fee, the $50 service fee, and any other service fees to the Sheriff which have been paid in advance by the Plaintiff.

There are no juries at a Small Claims hearing; it is just a simple, informal hearing before the Judge. At the hearing, the Plaintiff will first tell his or her story to the Judge. If you have papers, documents, photos or witnesses to help explain your case, use them (remember that you must have three copies of anything you want to submit to the Judge as evidence). The Plaintiff has the burden of proof, so it is important that you explain to the Judge at the hearing why every penny and every item of the claim is due to you. When the Plaintiff has finished, the Defendant then gets a chance to tell his or her version to the Judge; the Defendant may also use papers, documents, or photos (three copies required) or witnesses. 

Both parties should be clear and concise; it is wise to have your arguments well thought out in advance.  Do not be afraid to talk to the Judge; he is there to be fair to you. After hearing both side and seeing their evidence, the Judge may make an immediate decision as to who is right and who is wrong, and who owes whom money. If he announces his decision, the Clerk will also give you (or arrange to mail to you) a copy of the Judgment. If the Judge does not make an immediate decision, he will take the matter under advisement and you will be notified later, by mail, of the decision. In this instance, it is necessary that the Court have the correct mailing addresses for both parties.

Show All Answers

1. What kinds of claims can be filed?
2. How do I file small claims by mail?
3. How much does it cost to file?
4. How do I start a suit?
5. What is the small claims court procedure?
6. How do I prepare for my court date?
7. What happens at the trial?