Tuesday, March 11, 2014
57th District Court
113 Chestnut St.
Allegan, MI 49010
Phone: (269) 673-0400
Fax: (269) 673-0490
8:30am - 4:30pm
Monday through Friday
Phone: (269) 673-0400, #4
In civil cases, you must file a summons and complaint upon the defendant.
The most you can collect through a judgment in the General Civil Division is $25,000 plus costs. To file a civil case in the 57th District Court, the business or person you are suing must do business or live in Allegan County or the action must have occurred in Allegan County. In a civil case, you may be represented by legal counsel.
The court is only a tool that is available to you for settling disputes or establishing and reducing your claims to judgment. You are responsible for locating the parties, determining your course of action, gathering your witnesses and evidence. The necessary forms may be obtained at any court or from any business supply house that carries legal forms, or at: http://courts.mi.gov/administration/scao/forms/pages/default.aspx
While the staff of this court will try to help either party to an action, you must understand that:
By having your case tried in the Small Claims Division, you give up the following rights:
The defendant may choose not to give up these rights. He/she can demand before or at the time of hearing that the case be transferred to the General Civil Division.
A tenant can be evicted for various reasons. Some common reasons are failure to pay rent, destruction of property, or failure to follow rules and regulations.
Before a landlord can file a law suit to evict a tenant, the tenant must be served a copy of a notice to quit. A notice to quit is a demand to vacate the property. After the specified time on the notice to quit has passed, a complaint may be filed in district court. There is a fee for filing the complaint. A copy of the complaint and a notice of court hearing must be served on the tenant. If the tenant fails to appear at the court hearing and answer the complaint, a default judgment for possession of the property and money judgment may be entered. Ten days after the default judgment has been entered, the landlord may obtain a document called an Order of Eviction. This authorizes the landlord to evict the tenant and remove the tenant's belongings from the property.
Before filing your claim, you should have some idea what your chances are of collecting. A judgment does not mean automatic payment. It simply means you have proven to the satisfaction of the court that the person you sued owes you money. There are often cases where a judgment is not particularly difficult to obtain but the collection of money is difficult if not impossible.
The party you have sued may be penniless or bankrupt; may have gone out of business or left town; may not earn enough for you to garnish wages; or for other reasons it may be impossible to make the defendant pay. Income such as welfare, unemployment, social security, etc. cannot be garnished. If you cannot collect, a judgment in your favor may turn out to be a hollow victory.
A party who sued another party is called the plaintiff. The party being sued is called the defendant. There can be more than one plaintiff or defendant in the same action. An example would be when a husband and wife sue another husband and wife.
The following has been prepared to help you determine if you are the proper person to file the claim.
You have knowledge or information about all the facts in the matter and you are: the plaintiff
The plaintiff can be:
IF YOU ARE NOT THE PLAINTIFF AND DO NOT HAVE DIRECT AND PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE FACTS IN THIS DISPUTE, YOU CANNOT COMPLETE THE FORM FOR THE PLAINTIFF.
The most you can collect through a settlement in the Small Claims Division is $3,000.00 plus costs. The costs will be added by the magistrate or judge at the time of judgment. To file a claim in the 57th District Court, the business or person you are suing must do business or live in Allegan County, or the action must have occurred in Allegan County.
BEFORE COMING TO THE COURT TO FILL OUT AN AFFIDAVIT OF CLAIM, BE SURE YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING:
When your claim is filed, a hearing date is set within 30-40 days. This generally allows enough time for the defendant to receive the notice no later than the required seven days before the hearing date. This is done in one of two ways.
IMPORTANT: Once your claim has been filed, always have the case number with you when phoning or coming to the court.
Often the defendant may want to settle out of court before the hearing date. If settlement is made before he/she is served with the summons, you are not entitled to your court costs. If settlement is made after he/she is served, you are entitled to add your court costs. If the claim is paid you should file a voluntary dismissal with the court.
On the date the trial is set, plan to arrive at the court a few minutes early. YOU MUST BRING ALL PAPERWORK, WITNESSES AND EVIDENCE TO PROVE YOUR CASE. NO ADJOURNMENT WILL BE GRANTED TO PERMIT YOU TO BRING THESE AT A LATER DATE.
One of several things may occur on the scheduled date:
If service has been made and, 1) neither the plaintiff nor the defendant appear, or 2) the defendant appears but the plaintiff does not, the claim will be dismissed by the court.
When your case is called, all parties and all witnesses will be sworn in. The hearing is an informal matter. Don't try to play attorney, just state your claim as simply as possible. If necessary, refer to the papers or evidence you have brought with you. If you furnished copies for the court file, the magistrate/judge can follow along.
The person you are suing will then have an pportunity to tell the magistrate/judge why he/she feels he/she does not owe you what you claim. After all testimony and evidence has been presented, the magistrate/judge will render a decision.
It is your responsibility to collect a judgment. Because you have a judgment, you have ways of collecting that you would not have otherwise. Two of these are:
Installment payments: The court encourages the parties to agree among themselves how a judgment is to be paid. If a lump sum payment is not possible, try to reach some agreement on installment payments.
Garnishment: If the defendant will not voluntarily pay the judgment and you know where money is owed to him/her, such as wages, bank accounts, rentals, etc. you may want to file a writ of garnishment to attach this money. A writ of garnishment may not be issued to enforce the judgment until the expiration of 21 days after it was entered. The garnishment is filed against the person or business having possession of the monies. They are referred to as the garnishee defendant. As mentioned previously, income such as welfare, unemployment, social security, etc., cannot be garnished.
Before filing a garnishment for personal wages, you must know where the defendant works; how often he/she is paid, and what day of the week he/she receives his/her check. This will help you decide when the garnishment should be filed and served on the garnishee defendant.
The garnishee defendant has seven days after service of the writ to let you, the court, and the principal defendant know if there are available monies. In the case of wages, you are not entitled to the defendant's entire paycheck; only a portion of it as determined by a federal formula. You may have to garnish several pay checks to satisfy a judgment if no other payments are made. As you are required to sign a sworn affidavit to the truth and correctness of the amount still owing, you must keep accurate records.
WHEN PAYMENT OR JUDGMENT IS COMPLETE, EITHER IN FULL OR TO YOUR SATISFACTION, YOU MUST FILE A SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT WITH THE COURT.