In the event you find yourself with a potential claim that may be too small to warrant an attorney opening a file, it may be your best option to file your claim in small claims court. In South Carolina, small claims court, sometimes referred to as magistrate’s court, has a jurisdictional limit of seven thousand five hundred ($7500.00). Accordingly, any claim with the value $7500.00 or less can be filed in small claims court. Many of the case pending in small claims court have not attorney involvement. The staff at the magistrate’s court are invariably very friendly and helpful, and can answer all of your questions with regards to how to proceed.
You can obtain from the magistrate’s court a form summons and complaint for filing. The summons is the piece of paper that notifies the defendant that a claim has been brought against them. The complaint is the document which sets forth the claim against the defendant. In the caption you will need and accurate spelling of the defendant’s name as well as the defendant’s current address. The body of the complaint should state clearly the legal grounds upon which the complaint rests. For example, if the claim is a tort for personal injury, the complaint should clearly spell out how the defendant was negligent and further clearly spell out the injuries you suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence. In a personal injury matter, it is not necessary that you put a specific dollar amount as the amount claimed in the case. If the claim being brought is a breach of contract matter, the complaint should clearly set forth in what way the defendant breached the contract, and further set forth the damages suffered by you as a result of the defendant’s breach of the contract. Furthermore, in a breach of contract case you should attach a copy of the contract to the complaint.
After the summons and complaint have been filed and the fee paid to the magistrate’s court for filing, the summons and complaint will need to be served upon the defendant. The magistrate court will take care of this for you as well. A Defendant has thirty (30) days in which to answer or otherwise plead to the summons and complaint once it has been properly served upon him. If an answer is not filed and served upon you within that thirty days, the defendant can be deemed to be in default. If the defendant does not answer and goes into default, the staff at the magistrate’s court will very helpful in explaining how to go about obtaining a default judgment.
Once a judgment is obtained in any case, it remains in effect for a period of ten (10) years or until the judgment has been paid.
If you have any questions about magistrate’s court, do not hesitate to call Howell and Christmas in Charleston, South Carolina. Our attorneys and staff are always available to help steer you in the right direction.