Civil / Small Claims
The Small Claims Court was established in 1968 as a division of the District Court system. Its purpose is to provide a court to be used by people without the aid of attorneys to settle monetary disputes of $6,000 or less.
Some auto negligence cases may also be filed in the Small Claims Court. Since July 1, 1980, the No-Fault Insurance Law permits lawsuits for accident-caused damages to motor vehicles under certain conditions.
What to Expect at a Court Date
Although a party may seek legal advice before or after the hearing, parties are not allowed legal representation in Small Claims Court. Each party simply states their case in their own words. After both sides have been heard, the judge or magistrate makes a ruling.
Once a ruling is made the parties must comply with the judge's ruling. It's important to remember that a judge's decision is final in Small Claims Court. It cannot be appealed to a higher court. However, if the case is heard by a magistrate, either party may ask that the case be reheard by a judge if the magistrate's decision is unfavorable.
The first step to submitting a lawsuit is to purchase [the proper] form for $1. After you have the form you can file a claim against the person or business you want to sue. This is done in person at a district court office. The claim can be filed in the county where the defendant lives, the county where the [defendant's] business is located, or in the county where the transaction took place.
Tell the clerk that you want to file a small claim. You will be given instruction sheets explaining how the small claims division functions and how to begin and defend your case. You will also be given a simple form to fill out. The form is called an "Affidavit of Claim." If you win the case, you are entitled to be reimbursed for the costs of filing your suit and having it served on the defendant.
Please note: There are two different "back of form" pages which are both required to be filled out. You will need to know the exact name and address of the person or business you are suing, how much money you are suing for, and why you are suing.
Be sure that you give the correct and complete name and address of the defendant. This is very important. Unless you have the correct person or business and address, you may not be able to collect any money you are awarded. If you don't have correct name and address, it won't be served and therefore, will be dismissed.
If you have any questions or need help, ask the civil clerk. He or she will help you as much as is legally possible. The clerk may tell you how to use the court, but may not give legal advice.
Before the Hearing
- The court will notify the defendant that you have filed a claim. This is called "serving the defendant" with a summons. Both you and the defendant will be notified of the date of appearance which has been set by the court. The hearing is usually at least 30 days from the time you first filed your suit. If the defendant cannot be located and served, the suit cannot go forward. A summons may be served by any legally competent adult who is not a party or an officer of a corporate party in the case.
- The person or business you are suing has the right to ask that the case be heard in a higher court, which is the general civil division of District Court. You will be notified if the defendant makes such a request.
- It is also possible that the defendant will offer to pay out of court once a notice of your pending lawsuit is received. If you reach such an agreement, make sure that the terms of payment are put in writing and signed by both you and the defendant. Then file a copy of the agreement with the court. Once accepted by the court, the agreement becomes an official judgment of the court and is enforceable by law.
- You should also contact any witnesses you want to appear in court on your behalf to document your claim.
- The hearing will take place at the court where you filed your claim, unless another location is specified by the court. Be there on time. Be sure to bring all your evidence with you and make sure any witnesses are there on time.
- If you fail to attend the hearing, your claim will be dismissed. If the defendant does not show up for the hearing, the court will usually grant you a "default judgment." This means that the judge decides in your favor even though the other side of the case has not been presented.
If the judge decides in your favor, that means the defendant must pay you the amount ordered by the judge plus a small amount in court costs. If the defendant refuses to abide by the order of the court, there are various options open to you.
Contact the Civil or Small Claims Division where you have filed your claim to obtain information regarding post judgment proceedings.
- Claim up to $600: $30
- Claim over $600 to $1,750: $50
- Claim over $1,750 to $6,000: $70
- Claim up to $600: $35
- Claim over $600 to $1,750: $55
- Claim over $1,750 to $10,000: $75
- Claim over $10,000 up to $25,000: $160
Claim & Delivery
- Other than money judgment: $75
- Plus money judgment up to $600: $110
- Plus money judgment over $600 up to $1,750: $130
- Plus money judgment over $1,750 up to $10,000: $150
- Plus money judgment over $10,000 up to $25,000: $235
- Possession of Premises: $55
- Possession plus money judgment under $600: $90
- Possession plus money judgment over $600 up to $1,750: $110
- Possession plus money judgment over $1,750 up to $10,000: $130
- Possession plus money judgment over $10,000 up to $25,000: $215
- Appeal Fee: $25
- Motion Fee: $20
- Jury Fee: $50
- Documents Served by Court Officer: $26 Plus: $0.81 per Mile***
- Certified Copies and Additional Pages: $10 and $1
- Certified Mail-Business Filing Fee: $6.00*
- Certified/Restricted Mail-Individuals Filing Fee: $11.00*
- For Issuance of Seizure of Property Order, Garnishment, Order of Eviction or Judgment Debtor Discovery Subpoena: $15
* Subject to change according to prevailing postal rates and weight of mailing.
** Charged service fee plus mileage.
*** Calculated from the court to the place of service. Computed by the shortest distance. Subject to change upon annual evaluation of Michigan Department of Civil Service.