Click on this underlined title to read about "How to make small claims work for you".
You may visit the Small Claims Division during office hours (8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.), Monday through Friday. The Small Claims Division is located on the 1st floor of Court building at the District Court clerk window. Click here for a Map on how to get to the courthouse. The telephone number is (248) 246-3600. If you are filing a new Small Claims case, please arrive at the Court no later than 4:00 P.M.
You may file a Small Claims action if the amount of damages is $5,000 or less. Before filing your claim, you should have some idea of what your chances are of collection. A Judgment for you does not mean that you will receive "automatic payment". It simply means that you have proven to the satisfaction of the Court that the person you sued owes you money.
The party you have sued may be penniless or bankrupt, may have gone out of business, or left town, may not earn enough for you to garnish their wages, or for other reasons it may be impossible to make the defendant pay. Income such as welfare, unemployment, social security, etc. can not be garnished. If you can't collect, then a judgment in your favor may turn out to be a hollow victory.
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about Small Claims Court...
Is Royal Oak's 44th District Court the right Court to file my Small Claims action?
The answer is YES if any ONE of the following statements are true:
- The defendant lives in the City of Royal Oak, or the defendant is a business that has its principal place of business in the City of Royal Oak.
- A person was injured or personal property was damaged in the City of Royal Oak.
- A defendant signed or entered into a contract in the City of Royal Oak, a contract of obligation was to be performed in the City of Royal Oak, or the defendant was a corporation and the contract was breached in the City of Royal Oak.
What form should I fill out and where do I get it?
- You need Affidavit and Claim Small Claims form # DC-84. Use this form to file a claim against the Defendant.
- They are available at the Court Clerk's office for $1.00 each. or go online to: http://courts.michigan.gov/Administration/SCAO/Forms/Pages/Small-Claims.aspx
What Fees will I have to pay?
- $25.00 - If the claim you are filing is for $600 or less.
- $45.00 - If the claim is for between $600 and $1,750.
- $65.00 - If the claim is for between $1,750 and $5,000.
- $10.00 - If you want us to mail the papers by Certified Mail.
- $20.00+ - If you want our Court Officer to personally serve the papers. This fee varies depending on where the defendant lives.
Note: If the Judge/Magistrate rules in your favor, then costs (including those listed above) will be added to your claim at the time of the Judgment and the Defendant will be responsible for reimbursing you for those costs.
Before Starting a Small Claims Lawsuit...
Before starting a Small Claims lawsuit in the 44th District Court, as the Plaintiff you should be aware:
- In most accident cases, the amount you may sue for is the amount not covered by insurance, not to exceed $500, and
- You give up the following rights:
- The right to have an attorney represent you,
- The right to a jury trial, and
- The right to appeal
- The defendant(s), however, may choose not to give up their rights and may demand before or at the time of the Small Claims hearing that the case be transferred to the court's regular Civil Division where attorneys are allowed. If that happens, you may want to consult your own attorney.
On the day and time you are scheduled to appear, report to the Court Clerk's window on the 1st floor. Bring with you any evidence and witnesses you wish to present.
- If the defendant appears and admits responsibility, a consent judgment is entered against the defendant.
- If the defendant fails to appear after proper service, a default judgment will be entered against the defendant.
- If you fail to appear, the case will be dismissed.
Collecting Money from a Small Claims Judgment
How much money can I collect?
You many collect the amount stated in your Small Claims judgment plus any interest that accumulated during the time the other party pays off the debt.
How can I collect my money?
- If the defendant has the money and is present at the hearing, he/she can pay you at that time.
- If the defendant does not have the money at that time, and both parties agree, the Judge/Magistrate can set up a payment plan.
- If the defendant does not pay the judgment as ordered, there are two procedures available to you: execution against property and garnishment.
What is an execution?
An execution allows a court officer to seize property belonging to the defendant which can be sold to pay your judgment. To file an execution against property, you may pick up a copy of the form (MC 19) at the court clerk's window (or go online to Court Forms: http://courts.michigan.gov/Administration/SCAO/Forms/Pages).
In order to do this however, you will have to wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was signed, pay a nominal fee, and need to know where the defendant lives and what assets he/she may have.
What is a Garnishment?
A garnishment allows you to collect your judgment by garnishing the defendant's wages, bank accounts, or other sources such as income tax refunds. You first must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was signed before you pick up the form at the court clerk's window. Before you may do this however, you will need to know where the defendant works, where his/her assets are located, what bank/credit union the defendant uses, etc.