Small Claims Information
Phone: (419) 448-5413
Small Claims Court is designed to handle small matters in the simplest manner possible. You do not need a lawyer to file a small claims action, but you may have a lawyer represent you if you wish. You may only file an action for money (not for the return of property or for any other remedy). The maximum claim is $6,000. You may not bring an action for libel, slander, malicious prosecution or abuse of process. You may not sue for exemplary or punitive damages. There are no jury trials. (See Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1925)
An individual, company or corporation may file a claim against another individual, company or corporation. The Tiffin, Ohio location jurisdiction is Seneca County excluding Jackson and Loudon Townships and the City of Fostoria. The Fostoria, Ohio location jurisdiction is the City of Fostoria, Jackson and Loudon Townships in Seneca County. You may file a claim in the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court if:
- the individual, company or corporation you are suing lives or has its principal place of business in the jurisdiction of the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court.
- the actions giving rise to the complaint occurred in the jurisdiction of the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court.
- the property that is the subject of the claim is located in the jurisdiction of the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court.
Filing A Complaint
The case begins with a complaint. Small claims complaint forms are available at the court or downloadable from the "Forms" section of this web site. You may use the court's form or one that is similar as long as it provides the court with all of the information that it needs.
Your complaint must contain the following information:
- Correctly identify the parties. The name and address of the plaintiff and the name and address of the defendant. You must have the correct name of the defendant otherwise any judgment you get may not be enforceable.
- A brief but clear statement of the reason the suit is being brought. In other words, you need to tell the court why the defendant owes you money. You should include the date, time and place of the transaction or incident on which you base your complaint.
- The amount of money you believe the defendant owes you.
- A copy of any relevant contract, cancelled or NSF check, promissory note or account should be attached to the complaint. If you wish to provide any documents at the time the complaint is filed, you must provide one copy of all documents for the court and one copy for each defendant named in the complaint.
- You must sign your complaint in the presence of a clerk at the court or in the presence of a notary public if you intend to mail the complaint to the court.
- Your complaint must be accompanied by a filing fee of $60.00.
After the complaint has been filed, the court does two things: 1) schedules a hearing on the claim 30 to 40 days from the date of filing with notice to the plaintiff and 2) notifies the defendant by certified mail at the address supplied by the plaintiff that they have been sued and of the date of the hearing.
The defendant does not have to file an answer or any other paperwork. However, if the defendant wishes to contest the action, he must simply appear at the scheduled hearing with the evidence (documents, witnesses etc.) needed to defend the lawsuit.
Whenever you file a document of any kind with the court (with the exception of the complaint) you must also serve a copy of that document upon the opposing party. You accomplish this by mailing or hand delivering a copy to the opposing party at the last known address.
You must prove to the court that you served the opposing party by adding a statement to the document informing the court of the date and manner of service. For example:
"A copy of the foregoing document was mailed on the 1st day of May, 2007 to John Smith at 52 East Market Street, Tiffin, Ohio, 44883."
It is important to keep in mind that you will receive only one opportunity to prove your case, and you must prepare in advance for your hearing. If you are the plaintiff, it is your job to prove that the defendant owes you money. You must also have evidence to prove how much the defendant owes you. If you are a defendant and you filed a counterclaim you must prove that the plaintiff owes you money on your counterclaim and you must have evidence to prove how much the plaintiff owes you.
Make sure you have all of the documents that you need. Bring all papers that you believe will assist you in your claim, like contracts, cancelled checks, bills, receipts, photographs and letters. Remember: it is your responsibility to prove that you are entitled to recover and you must also prove the amount that you are entitled to recover.
Make sure you bring any physical evidence that you need. If you need photographs, or wish to show the Court an object to help prove your claim make sure you bring them with you to court.
Make sure you bring any witnesses you wish to testify on your behalf and prepare your questions before coming to court. Letters and affidavits stating what your witnesses would say if they were present, though considered by the court, normally do not carry as much weight as if you had the witness present.
You should check in with the clerk of small claims shortly before your case is scheduled.
Your case will be heard before the judge, and uncontested cases will be called first. Those cases in which are contested and will require testimony are called later due to the necessity of testimony and argument. The plaintiff will have the first opportunity to tell their side of the story. The defendant will then be given an opportunity to tell their side of the story.
Small claims hearings can take anywhere from ten to forty-five minutes. You should, however, be prepared to stay longer if necessary. Be sure your documents are organized before you come to Court. Also it is important that you have your thoughts organized so you can explain the situation as clearly and concisely as possible.
All of your statements should be brief and to the point. Follow the instructions given to you by the judge. Do not interrupt when the other side is testifying. Both sides will be given an opportunity to speak.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will either announce his decision or take the matter under consideration. In either case both parties will receive a copy of the judge's decision.
Below you will find various forms useful for civil cases. To download a form, right-click the appropriate link below and click "Save Target As..." (exact wording may vary).
|Affidavit & Motion for Debtor's Exam
|Affidavit for Garnishment of Other than Personal Belongings
|Instructions for Service
|Motion for Continuance
|Notice of Voluntary Dismissal
|Personal Earnings Garnishment
|Satisfaction of Judgment
|Small Claims Complaint Form
|Small Claims Filing Fee (Non-Refundable)
|Small Claims Counterclaim
|Small Claims Amended Complaint
|Appeal of Small Claims Judgment
|(Amount due under $500.00)
|(Amount due between $500.00 and $3000.00)
|(Amount due over $3000.00)
|Debtor's Exam (per defendant)
|**Fee to Banking Institution
|Certificate of Judgment
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can any kind of case be resolved in small claims court?
- No. Small claims courts resolve small monetary disputes only, and does not have the power to direct a party to turn over a specific item or property other than to give a judgment for money.
- What can I do to resolve my problem without going to small claims court?
- The Tiffin Municipal Court offers court-based mediation designed to help parties arrive at their own compromise settlement with the help of a neutral third party. Mediation works best where the parties have an interest in staying on good terms, as is generally the case with neighbors, family members or small business people who have done business together for many years. This type of dispute resolution has been remarkably successful. (more information)
- Can I bring a lawyer to small claims court?
- Attorneys are allowed, but not required. One objective of small claims is to make it possible for individuals to argue their own cases without the added expense of hiring a lawyer due to the limited value of the case and the high cost of hiring an attorney. For this reason, small claims rules and procedures are not as strict as those in the regular court.
- When will my case be heard?
- Hearings are set approximately 30 - 40 days from the date of filing.
- Will I get paid if I win the lawsuit?
- Not necessarily. The court may decide in your favor, but it won't handle collection for you or make the defendant pay you. The role of the court is to determine whether or not you are entitled to the money for which you sued. If the defendant does not pay the judgment, the court will give you the information about your options on how to collect your money. There are additional fees for each type of collection. The extra costs do get added to your judgment.