Important Information for Defendants about Commercial Claims Court
The Notice of Claim is the start of a lawsuit against you. It should not be ignored! The person suing you is the claimant; you are the defendant. Carefully read the Notice of Claim for more information about the lawsuit.
The Commercial Claims Court is an informal court where corporations, partnerships and associations can sue for money only, up to $5,000, without a lawyer. If you have questions about court procedures, contact the Clerk of the Court at 432-4480 or go to the Court and pick up of the Commercial Claims Guide. If you are being sued as the result of a consumer transaction, you should have received a letter demanding payment before you received the Notice of Claim. Notify the Court if you did not get the letter.
You MUST go to the Court on the date specified in the Notice of Claim. If you wish, you may be represented by an attorney at your own expense. If you need an adjournment, call the Clerk of the Court at 432-4480 for information. Note that if you do not have a good excuse, your request will be denied. Any requests for adjournment must be in writing to the Court at least 72 hours before the date of the hearing. You MUST make the request within 14 days of receipt of the Notice of Claim. You may also ask for a jury trial by filing a written Demand for Jury and providing an written affidavit specifying the issues of fact which you desire to have tried by a jury. You must also pay the appropriate Jury Demand fee and undertaking.
If you do not go to Court or do not get an adjournment, a default judgment may be entered against you. If you do not pay the judgment, the claimant may have the Sheriff seize certain of your property and sell it to satisfy the judgment or, if you work, have a portion of your salary turned over to the claimant until the judgment is paid. The claimant also may obtain a restraining order, tying up your bank account.
If you have a claim against the claimant, you may bring a "counterclaim" as part of the lawsuit, for money only, up to $5,000. You must inform the Court of your counterclaim and you must be prepared to prove the counterclaim on the day you go to Court. You should contact the Clerk of the Court for information and filing fees if you wish to file a counterclaim.
If you believe a third party is responsible for the claim, you may be able to bring that party into the lawsuit as a defendant by filing your own Small Claim/Commercial Claim with the Court against the third party. However, you should contact the Clerk of the Court to determine if the Court has jurisdiction over the third party defendant. You must inform the Court that there is a pending small claim/commercial claim and you must be prepared to prove your claim on the day you go to Court. You should contact the Clerk of the Court for information and filing fees if you wish to file a claim against a third party.
When you go to Court on the day set for the trial, be prepared for a simple, informal hearing. Bring any evidence necessary to prove your defense, such as photographs, written agreements, an itemized bill marked "paid", receipts, canceled check, etc. If you rely on estimates, two different written estimates of the cost of repairs or services are required. If possible, merchandise that is in dispute should be brought to Court. Testimony, including your own, is evidence. Any other witness also may testify. You may have to pay an expert witness for his or her time. If a witness is unwilling to appear voluntarily and/or produce records, you may contact the Clerk for information about getting a subpoena. Witnesses must testify in person. Statements are not admissible.