Delaware, Ohio Ohio Small Claims Court
Ohio law requires that each county and municipal court establish a small claims division, generally known as small claims court. (See chapter 1925 of the Ohio Revised Code.) The purpose of the small claims court is to resolve minor disputes fairly, quickly, and inexpensively.
The procedures in small claims court are simpler than in other court cases. Hearings are informal; there is no jury; cases are decided either by the municipal court or county court judge, or by a “magistrate” (a qualified attorney appointed by the judge); court costs are lower than in other cases. Some small claims courts hold evening sessions, and small claims courts in large metropolitan areas may have neighborhood offices.
The relative simplicity of small claims court makes it easier for people to handle their cases without attorneys. However, it is highly advisable to seek out an attorney even with a small claims case as there a number of legal issues to address: evidence, possible larger claims, additional parties to sue, trial rules, local rules, etc.
Example: Delaware Municipal Court has a small claims division that limits the plaintiff’s recovery to $6,000. Here, a plaintiff (such as a landlord or contractor) can sue for up to $6,000.
In most, if not all small claims cases, the Court will order the parties to meet in order to work out the issue of settlement. During mediation, the parties individually meet with a mediator to try to settle the case for an agreeable amount of money. Obviously, this occurs sometime before a trial is held.
If the parties cannot negotiate a resolution, a trial will be held in front of the magistrate. Here, the plaintiff will make his/her case in the form of opening arguments, testifying witnesses, introduction of physical evidence, etc. After the plaintiff “rests” the Defendant(s) will put on their case in the same way. At the end of this process, both parties will make arguments as to why they should win. The magistrate will either issue an opinion right away and find for one party, or will take his/her time to analyze what they have seen and “take it into advisement.” This means the magistrate will come back days/weeks later and issue an opinion. Usually, the facts are simple enough that a magistrate can make a decision then and there after the close of arguments.