Small Claims

While the staff of this court will try to help either party to an action, you must understand that:
  • Our clerks are not attorneys and they cannot give legal advice.
  • The judges may not and will not give advice on matters they may have to rule on.
  • In Small Claims, the Court can render money judgments only and has no power to force anyone to do something or to stop doing something.
Small Claims Cases
By having your case tried in the Small Claims Division, you give up the following rights:
  • The right to have an attorney
  • The right to appeal to a higher court
  • The right to a jury trial
  • Any money amount over $5,500
Before the hearing, either party may choose not to give up these rights. He/she can demand before or at the time of hearing that the case be transferred to the General Civil Division.

Affidavit of Claim

Before coming to the court to fill out an affidavit of claim, be sure you have the following:
  • Filing fee plus service fee for certified mail - When filing by mail, send a check (Michigan banks only) or money order made payable to the 82nd District Court. Mailing fees are subject to change due to postal increases.
  • Defendant’s full and correct name.
  • Defendant’s current address (post office box is not enough if you choose to have personal service) - If you furnish an incorrect address and the process server attempts service, he/she is allowed by law to charge you $10 for his/her time.
  • Amount of claim and pertinent dates.
  • A concise statement as to the nature of the claim-  You may use a second sheet if necessary. The responsibility is yours to prove 2 things to the court: Liability - why the defendant is obligated or responsible to pay the money you claim.
    Damages - the exact amount of money owed. Remember, it is your word against the defendant’s. It is not the Judge’s fault if he/she has to rule against you because you were not prepared to prove your case.
  • Copies of all papers to support your claim such as bills of sale, receipts, guarantees, accident reports, leases, promissory notes, repair estimates, photos, etc.
When your claim is filed, a hearing date is set within 30-45 days. This generally allows enough time for the defendant to receive the notice no later than the required 7 days before the hearing date. This is done in 1 of 2 ways:
  • A copy is left with him/her personally by a process server or any legally competent adult who is not a party to the suit - If you are not familiar with the laws governing service, you may want to have an experienced process server serve your papers. The court assumes no responsibility for service. You or the individual serving the papers must see that service is made according to law.
  • The notice is mailed by certified mail with a return receipt requested - If certified mail is not picked up by the defendant you may want to have a process server try to make service after a new hearing date is scheduled. Unless the court has proof the defendant has received the notice, it cannot proceed with the case.
Important: Once your claim has been filed, always have the case number with you when phoning or coming to the court.

Trial Date
On the date the trial is set, plan to arrive at the court a few minutes early. You must bring all paperwork, witnesses and evidence to prove your case. No adjournment will be granted to permit you to bring these at a later date. One of several things may occur on the scheduled date:
  • The defendant may appear, refuse to submit to the Small Claims Division, and request that the case be transferred to the General Civil Division. This is his/her legal right. He/she must then file an answer in writing within 14 days of the transfer and a new date will be set.
  • The defendant may appear, admit liability for your claim and a consent judgment will be entered.
  • The defendant may fail to appear. If he/she has proper service and you can prove to the Court you have a proper claim, a default judgment will be entered.
  • The Magistrate may sit down with the parties to try and resolve some or all of the issues prior to the hearing with the Judge.
  • The defendant may appear, disagree with the claim, agree to have it heard in Small Claims Division and the trial will be held.
If service has been made and, 1) neither the plaintiff nor the defendant appear, or 2) the defendant appears but the plaintiff does not, the claim will be dismissed by the court.

Hearing Procedure

When your case is called, all parties and all witnesses will be sworn in. The hearing is an informal matter. Don’t try to play attorney, just state your claim as simply as possible. If necessary, refer to the papers or evidence you have brought with you. If you furnished copies for the court file, the judge can follow along.

The person you are suing will then have an opportunity to tell the judge why he/she feels he/she does not owe you what you claim. After all testimony and evidence has been presented, the judge will render a decision.