Small Claims Division
You may visit the small claims division during office hours. The small claims division is located on the 1st floor of the court building at the district court clerk window. If you are filing a new small claims case, please arrive at the court no later than 4 p.m.
Who Can File a Small Claims Case
You may file a Small Claims action if the amount of damages are $5,500 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.
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 $1,000,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.
How to Make Small Claims Work For You
A law was passed a few years back making it possible for citizens like yourself to sue someone in Court without a lot of expense. This Court is called Small Claims Court. In Small Claims Court all parties give up the right to have attorneys present, to have a jury trial, and to appeal a Judge's decision. Because of this, your costs to sue someone in Small Claims Court usually just run between $35 and $75. These costs can also be recovered by you if you win your case.
How Do You Begin a Small Claims Suit?
- If the action took place in the City of Royal Oak or the City of Berkley, click on the link above to access the Small Claims Form.
- After you fill out this Small Claims Form (either here or at home), you return it back to the Clerk, pay your filing fee, and the fee for certified mail. You may opt for a Court Officer to attempt personal service and you would be billed. This cost varies and is determined by the person being sued.
- The Court will send you a notice of the time that the Court will hear your case.
- Just before your Court Date, you should call the District Court and ask if the papers have been served. If that has been done, you are then all set to show up at Small Claims Court and present your case to the Judge.
The Real Proof Small Claims is for You
The Judge lets you and the other party tell your sides of the story in your own words. This would be the time for you to present to the Judge any documents, pictures, or witnesses you might have to substantiate your lawsuit. After the Judge hears both sides and looks at all the evidence, he then makes a decision in the case.
But please remember this: small claims court works for you if your lawsuit is valid, under $5500, and if the party you're suing is a responsible citizen or business with the resources to pay you if you are determined by the Judge to be in the right. If you are suing a con artist, someone penniless or bankrupt, or someone who has left town, you may win the Court case and get a judgment in your favor, but you might never collect and may want to reconsider whether to file or not.
The District Court is not a collection agency. But if you have a legitimate claim against a responsible business or individual, Yes, Small Claims Court does work for you.