Small Claims Court is available to Plaintiffs (persons requesting relief) who have a claim for money damages for $6000 or less. Plaintiffs cannot ask for the return of property or completion of services with a small claim. For claims involving the return of property, completion of services, or damages that exceed $6000, please see the General Division section of this website.
For a basic overview of Small Claims Court, read the Small Claims Summary.
For an overview of the legal terms you are likely to encounter, read Definitions of Legal Terms Used in Small Claims Court.
General steps of a Small Claims lawsuit:
1. A person or business wants to sue another person or business in Franklin County for $6000 or less.
2. That person is the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff or the Plaintiff’s attorney fills out a Complaint and Civil Cover Sheet.
3. The Plaintiff then takes 3 copies of the completed Complaint, the Civil Cover Sheet, and a $78 filing fee to the Franklin County Municipal Court Civil Law Clerk at:
375 S. High St., 3rd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
The Clerk’s office does not accept filings after 4:30pm.
4. The Defendant (person who is being sued) will receive notice about the lawsuit, usually in the mail.
5. Plaintiff and Defendant may choose to pursue Mediation. Mediation is a voluntary and free process to help people resolve disputes. For more information on Medication, visit Small Claims – Mediation.
6. If the parties do not choose mediation, they will prepare for trial. Preparing for trial means researching the law, gathering evidence, and deciding what you will say in court.
For information to help Plaintiffs prepare for trial, see Small Claims – Filing a Lawsuit. Look for: How Do I Prepare My Case for Trial.
For information to help Defendants prepare for trial, see Small Claims – Defending a Lawsuit.
7. On the day of your hearing, you must go to court. If the Defendant does not appear, there will likely be a judgment against her. If the Plaintiff does not appear, the case will likely be dismissed.
Try to arrive early to court. When you arrive, check in with the Bailiff. The Bailiff sits at the front of the courtroom. Then wait for your case to be called.
For other tips on representing yourself in court:
Representing Yourself in Court, A Citizen’s Guide (from the Ohio Judicial Conference)
8. When your case is called, go to the front of the courtroom. Wait to speak until the magistrate speaks to you.
Your first appearance in court may or may not be for a Trial. The magistrate may suggest that you try mediation or continue the case for a later date. You should be prepared for any outcome.
9. Once there is a trial, the magistrate will prepare a written decision. You will probably not learn the magistrate’s decision right away. You or your attorney will receive a copy of the magistrate’s decision in the mail.
A judge always reviews a magistrate decision. The Court will then enter a judgment.
If you disagree with the magistrate’s decision, you must file an objection within 7 days of the decision entry. To learn more about this process, visit Small Claims – Objecting a Magistrate’s Decision.
10. Once the judgment has been entered, you may enforce the judgment. To learn more about enforcing the judgment, visit Small Claims – Collecting a Judgment.
If you have questions or need more information about enforcing a judgment, visit the Self Help Center or check the Debtor/Creditor page of this site.
The Small Claims Division of the Franklin County Municipal Court is located at:
375 S. High St., 16th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
They are available to answer your questions in person Monday – Friday 8am to 5pm.
You can also visit their website for more information, forms, and helpful step-by-step instructions and videos: http://smallclaims.fcmcclerk.com/home