“What are the basic guidelines for filing a case in Small Claims Court?”
Note: This article describes the law in Michigan. Other states have their own rules.
If you have a disagreement with another person, or a company, that involves a money value of no more than $3000, you might think about suing in Small Claims Court. Here are some of the rules, and some of the realities, as well.
Kinds of Cases: Money damages, but not cases of fraud, intentional misconduct (like assault, or slander). No cases where you ask the court to rule on the fairness of someone’s behavior (so-called equitable relief).
Dollar limit: Cases where damages are $3000 or less and can be proven. Remember: in auto minitort claims for repayment of your deductible or collision damage by the driver who caused the collision, the most you can get is $1000.
Where to file the case: This is done in the Small Claims Division of the District Court for the city where the person you are suing lives, or in the city where the breach of agreement or injury happened. There is a filing fee. The Complaint can be served on the Defendant in person or by certified mail (the Clerk of the Court does that).
Court date: You will receive a hearing date that can vary from about two weeks to about two months after the Complaint is served.
Attorneys: No attorneys are allowed to represent the parties.
Transfer of case: If either party wants to ask the Court to transfer the case to the general civil division, the Court will do that. This would happen, for example, if the Defendant wants to protest the suit, and wants to use a lawyer, or if the Plaintiff discovers that the actual financial loss is more than $3000, but less than $25,000.
Appeals: Not allowed, unless the case is heard by a district court magistrate; in that case there is a seven day appeal period
Collecting the money: If the Plaintiff wins a judgment, it is up to the Plaintiff to take further legal steps to try to collect the money. This is done at the Plaintiff’s expense. There is no guarantee that attempts to collect the judgment will be successful. Hiring an attorney to attempt collection is entirely up to the Plaintiff.
Where to get forms: http://courts.mi.gov/ – Small Claims Forms
Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.
The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.
We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.
We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.
All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.
At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.