What is the Small Claims Court?
The Franklin County Small Claims Court is a division of the Municipal Court that hears cases for money damages that do not exceed $6,000. A magistrate, instead of a judge, hears small claims cases and there are no juries. Procedures in small claims court are different than the General Division of the Municipal Court. If you are an individual, and not a corporation or a limited liability company, you do not need an attorney and you may represent yourself. However, some cases in small claims court may be complex and you may need an attorney. Recent Magistrate Decisions are available to learn more about the small claims trial process.
Do I need an attorney?
- Individuals may represent themselves or be represented by 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.
- Partnerships may be represented by a general partner or an attorney.
- Corporations may be represented by an attorney, a non-lawyer officer, or a salaried employee; however, the following limitations apply to non-lawyer representatives: the officer or salaried employee may testify only about facts he or she has personal knowledge of, and may present documentary evidence in support of the claim or defense. He or she may not examine or cross-examine any witness, present legal arguments, or engage in other acts of advocacy. The officer or salaried employee may not file or present motions, affidavits, or file collections proceedings.
- Limited Liability Companies may be represented by an attorney, a non-lawyer officer or salaried employee of a limited liability company (LLC). A non-lawyer representative may complete and file documents on behalf of the company in a small claims court, appear on behalf of the company at small claims court hearings, but may not engage in cross examination, argument, or other acts of advocacy. A non-lawyer representative of an LLC may not file or present motions, affidavits, or file collections proceedings.
Is Small Claims Court the right place for my lawsuit? (Jurisdiction and Venue)
Your lawsuit is appropriate for the Franklin County Small Claims Court if it meets the court’s requirements for both jurisdiction and venue. Jurisdiction is the court’s authority to hear a particular type of case. The Small Claims Division only has the authority to hear cases for money damages that do not exceed $6,000, not including interest and court costs – no other relief is permitted. The court does not have the authority to hear cases involving libel, slander, malicious prosecution, or abuse of legal process. No claims may be brought against the State of Ohio or the United States of America.
Venue means the territory (usually, a specific county) where a case may be heard. Generally, the Franklin County Small Claims Court is a proper venue if either the incident or transaction giving rise to the lawsuit occurred in Franklin County, or the defendant either lives in, or regularly conducts business in Franklin County, Ohio.
I want to file a lawsuit, what do I do?
If you have a claim for money damages that do not exceed $6,000, and you meet the requirements for jurisdiction and venue, then you may file a small claims lawsuit. To file a small claims lawsuit you will need to complete the forms that are required to begin the legal process. You may request the forms by visiting the Small Claims Division in person, or you may download the forms online at the Court Forms section of this site. For more information about filing a lawsuit in small claims court, please read the Guide to Filing a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
How much does it cost to file a small claims complaint?
The cost for filing a small claims complaint is $78.00. There may be additional costs as the case proceeds. All fees for Municipal Court cases are listed on the Clerk’s Civil Cost Sheet. Alternatively, mediation is free.
Who can be sued and who can file a lawsuit?
Individuals or business entities such as corporations, limited liability companies, or partnerships are parties that may sue and be sued in small claims court. The party filing the lawsuit is the plaintiff. The party being sued is the defendant. If you are filing a lawsuit it is very important that you list each party accurately. If there is more than one plaintiff or more than one defendant, list each one separately. For more information about parties in a lawsuit, please read Filing a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
Is there a way to resolve my dispute before filing a small claims complaint?
Before you file your case, you can request mediation through the "Pre-File" mediation program. Mediation is a voluntary process where you meet with the other party or parties involved in the dispute and a neutral third party, a mediator, to reach a settlement outside of court. Mediation is a free service. The mediator helps the parties resolve their differences through negotiation. A mediator is not a judge and does not decide if either party is “right” or “wrong.” The mediator will not force any party to accept a settlement that is not acceptable to everyone. The mediator’s role and the goal of mediation are to help all parties achieve an agreement. The mediator can help the parties prepare written terms of the agreement, if there is one.
Here are some of the advantages of mediation:
- Mediation is free.
- The mediation process is private and confidential.
- Mediation is generally quicker than going to small claims court.
- There is no need to involve witnesses or gather evidence. Mediation is not a “proof” hearing.
- Mediation sessions are scheduled around your availability and the Mediation Department's availability.
- You control the outcome (you do not have to agree if you do not want to).
- Mediated agreements are more likely to meet the needs and interests of the parties.
- Parties can include in a mediated agreement things the small claims court might not have the authority to order, like the return of property, for example.
- If you do not agree to a settlement, you still have your right to file a lawsuit.
- Even if your case goes to trial later, you will be better prepared to present your case.
Here are some things to keep in mind with the Pre-File Mediation Program:
- Participation for all parties is completely voluntary.
- A mediation will only be held if all parties accept the request to mediate.
- Statistically, about 2 out of every 10 mediation requests made through the Pre-File Mediation Program are scheduled for a mediation.
I have been sued in Small Claims Court, what do I do?
If you received a complaint and summons in the mail from the Small Claims Court then you have been sued and you are a defendant. The complaint contains the claims against you. The summons contains the date you must appear in court. If you do not appear in court on the date listed in the summons then you risk losing the case. For more information, please read Defending a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
Who should I contact if I need legal advice or more information?
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 email@example.com. If you are writing about a filed case, please include the case number and case name in any communication with the court.
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 is open from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., the Clerk of Court is open from 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Monday through Friday.
In addition, the court maintains a website where you may view case information http://www.fcmcclerk.com/case/. You can use the case information website to check the status of your case.
If you need language or interpreter assistance, please visit: http://www.fcmcclerk.com/court/interpreting-services#request-interpreter-services.