HOW TO FILE A THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT


  1. What is a third-party complaint?
  2. What is the jurisdictional limit for a third-party complaint?
  3. How do I complete the third-party complaint form?
  4. When do I file the third-party complaint?
  5. How do I file a third-party complaint?
  6. How is the new party notified?
  7. How is trial conducted?
  8. How will the case be decided?
  9. Who should I contact if I need legal advice or more information?


What is a third-party complaint?  (back to top)

If a defendant wishes to bring a new party into the case and make a claim against the new party, he/she may file a Third-Party Complaint.  If you have been named as a defendant and want to file a claim against someone who was not originally named a defendant, you should follow this procedure.  This procedure is only appropriate if the third-party would be liable to you if you were found liable to the plaintiff.



What is the jurisdictional limit for a third-party complaint?  (back to top)

A small claims third-party complaint is limited to $6,000, not including court costs and interest.  You cannot ask for anything other than money because that would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Division.  Also, you cannot file for libel, slander, abuse of (legal) process, malicious prosecution, or to recover “punitive damages.”

If you have a third-party complaint for more than $6,000, you will have to decide whether it is best for you to file it for $6,000 and have it heard in the Small Claims Division or to file it for the higher amount and transfer the case to the general division of the Court.  If you decide to file for the higher amount, you must pay a transfer fee of $45.00 (this fee is the difference between the small claims filing fee and the general division civil case filing fee).  If the fee is not paid, the case will remain in the Small Claims Division where it is subject to the jurisdictional limit of $6,000.



How do I complete the third-party complaint form?  (back to top)

A preprinted third-party complaint form is available for download at Court Forms.  Copies of the form are also available in the Small Claims Office.

On the form, you must complete the caption at the top indicating the names of all of the parties in the case with the case number.  While filling out the third-party complaint, remember that the plaintiff will still be known as plaintiff, you will be referred to as the defendant and the third-party plaintiff.  The new party that you are bringing into the case will be referred to as the third-party defendant.

Next, in the box provided, state in clear language the nature of your claim against the new party–the third-party defendant.  You may ask for money only and no more than $6,000.00, the jurisdictional limit of the Small Claims Court.  Be sure to sign the form at the bottom.

A copy of the plaintiff’s complaint must be attached to the third-party complaint.  Mark this as “Exhibit A”.  This is required so that the new party may see the plaintiff’s original claim.



When do I file the third-party complaint?  (back to top)

The third-party complaint must be filed at least seven (7) days before the trial date.  If you decide to file a third-party complaint less than seven days before the trial date, you must contact the magistrate to whom the case is assigned and obtain permission to file your cross-claim.  Telephone numbers for the Magistrates’ offices are available at http://www.fcmcclerk.com/officials/court.php or in the “blue pages” of the telephone book under Franklin County of, Municipal Court.



How do I file a third-party complaint?  (back to top)

File the Third-Party Complaint with the Clerk of Courts Office on the third floor.  The cost of filing a Third Party Complaint is $20.00 plus the cost of serving the new party, $6.00 per party for certified mail service, and $25.00 per party for personal (or residence) service by a court bailiff.

Be sure to mail copies of the Third-Party Complaint to the plaintiff, and to any other defendants named in the original complaint.  Do not mail a copy to the new party–the court will handle delivery to the new party, as explained below.  Sign the “Certificate of Service” declaration at the bottom of your form to verify that you have mailed it.



How is the new party notified?  (back to top)

The new party, the third-party defendant, will receive a summons in the same manner as all other defendants, usually by certified mail.  In some cases, trial may be postponed to ensure that the new party has a fair amount of time to receive the summons and to prepare for trial. When you file the Third-Party Complaint, you should fill out a praecipe (a formal request to the clerk of courts) for service by certified mail, or by another lawful method, with the name and address of the new party listed.  A copy of the praecipe is available online at http://www.fcmcclerk.com/forms/civil/Instructions.pdf.



How is trial conducted?  (back to top)

The magistrate will first hear the plaintiff’s evidence and witnesses.  You, and any other defendant will then have an opportunity to ask questions of the plaintiff and plaintiff’s witnesses.

You may then present your defense to the plaintiff’s claim, and your claim against the third-party defendant, by producing evidence and witnesses.  The plaintiff, as well as the third-party defendant, may then cross-examine you and your witnesses.

Finally, the third-party defendant may present his or her defense to your claim by producing evidence and witnesses.  Cross-examination of the third-party defendant and witnesses, if any, will follow.

For more information about how trial is conducted, please see What happens during trial?



How will the case be decided?  (back to top)

The magistrate will make a judgment as to the plaintiff’s complaint against you, and a judgment as to your claim against the third-party defendant.  Each judgment may be enforced in the same manner as with any other civil judgment.



Who should I contact if I need legal advice or more information?  (back to top)

The Court, including Small Claims Division staff, judges, magistrates, bailiffs, and other court staff, cannot give legal advice.  If you have a specific question regarding your legal rights or responsibilities, you should contact an attorney.  If you need or want an attorney to represent you, you may call The Columbus Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 614-221-0754 or toll-free at 877-560-1014, or visit http://www.columbuslawyerfinder.com/ for more information about obtaining an attorney.

If you have questions about procedures in Small Claims Court you may contact the Small Claims Division at 614-645-7381 or email at smallclaims@fcmcclerk.com.  You may contact the Clerk of Court Civil Division at 614-645-7220 if you have a question about any of the court records for your case.  The Small Claims Division and the Clerk of Court are open from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday.

In addition, the court maintains a website where you may view case information http://www.fcmcclerk.com/case/.