Small Claims Court is a way for people to recover money they think other people owe them.
Small Claims Court provides easy access for people with disputes involving relatively small amounts of money. In Hamilton County, Ohio, Small Claims Court will hear claims for disputes in which:
Please note that if you win a Small Claims case, you don't automatically get the money. You may have to collect the judgment from the other party. Find a guide on collecting money judgments here.
Some typical Small Claims cases are:
There are other cases as well, as long as the case is only about recovering money, and this amount is less than $6000.
Basic information about Small Claims is available on the Small Claims automated phone line at 513-946-5700.
The cost of a Small Claims case includes filing fees and other court costs.
In Hamilton County, Ohio, you need the following to file a small claims lawsuit against another person:
A fillable Small Claims complaint is here. Getting your complaint right can help you avoid problems with your case later.
The Help Center can answer your questions. File your small claims complaint in room 113 of the main courthouse 1000 Main St.
The other party must have legal notice (service) before you can go to court. Your small claims case is typically served on the person you are suing by certified mail. The certified mail must be either delivered or be returned to the court as unclaimed or refused (with ordinary mail sent out) before you can proceed.
If there is a problem with the certified mail, your case may be delayed and you may need to take additional steps to serve the defendant.
In Hamilton County, you do not need to file a written response to a small claims case. Instead, the defendant can appear at the court date listed on the summons to prove why they shouldn’t owe the plaintiff. They can also try to work out a settlement agreement with the plaintiff.
If you are sued and believe the plaintiff owes you money, you can countersue the person by filing a counterclaim. A fillable counterclaim is here and a sample counterclaim is here.
Generally, the plaintiff (or, the person filing the lawsuit) needs to prove three things:
At court, the plaintiff will have to prove these 3 things. The defendant will have to challenge these 3 things.
If you are the plaintiff or defendant, make sure to prepare materials that can help you support your side of the story:
For any physical or media evidence, prepare it so that the court will agree to look at it:
Know what to expect on your court date.
You can watch other small claims trials to prepare. They are held every weekday in Room 265 of Hamilton County Municipal Court at 9:30am or 10:30am.
Be on time
If you are late, your case may be dismissed. The security line can be long. Arrive 1 hour early.
You can choose to meet with a mediator to see if you can agree on a settlement without a trial. This can help you resolve the problem out of court, to benefit both sides.
At the trial, you can expect your case to follow this process:
If you win, you are not paid automatically. Sometimes you must take other steps to collect the judgment.
A magistrate makes a decision on the day of your trial or a few days later. A judge finalizes the judgment 14 days later. You may still need to collect the money after this.
See this guide on how to collect judgments. You may need to take extra steps if the other side does not pay you directly.