Do you have a customer who refuses to pay you for the repairs you made to her car? Or maybe the roofer you hired didn't finish the work? These are just a couple of examples of the types of claims or disputes that are resolved by the Kentucky small claims courts.
And, now that you're ready to file a small claims lawsuit, you need to know the mechanics of what to do and how to do it. In general, you have to have to know exactly who you're suing, have the right paperwork, and file the suit in the right court.
Where to File
Small claims cases are handled by a special department or "division" of the district courts. Each county in Kentucky has a district court. However, even though the district court handles small claims case, you actually file your lawsuit with the clerk of the circuit court for the county. Each county in Kentucky has a circuit court, as well. Generally, you have to file your lawsuit in the county where:
If you don't file the lawsuit in the right district court, the defendant can ask the court to move the case to the proper court, or even ask that the case be "dismissed," or thrown out of court. This can slow things down for you. So, if you're unsure about where to file your suit, contact the clerk's office for your area for some help.
Lawsuits begin when the plaintiff, the person who's suing, files a "complaint." In the Kentucky small claims courts, there's a special form called the "Small Claims Complaint." The form is straightforward, but if you need help filling it out, the clerk can give you some assistance. However, don't expect legal advice about your suit.
When filling out the form, you need to give information about case in a clear and simple way. Print neatly and just give the facts about your claim. Specifically, you'll need to give:
It's very important that you have the proper name and address of the party you're suing. If you're suing:
At the time you file your forms, you will need to pay your filing fees. In Kentucky, the fee is $20. The fee can change at any time, so be sure to ask the circuit court clerk about the current fee.
Generally, if you win your case, the small claims court will order the defendant to pay your filing fee (called "court costs"). This will be in addition to any other money or "damages" the court awards you on your claim.
Service of Process
"Service of process" is when one party gives the other party notice that he's being sued. Generally, this is done by making sure that the defendant gets a copy of the Complaint that you filed. You're responsible for making sure that the defendant is served. When you file your Complaint, the clerk will give you detailed instructions on how to do this. Generally, you may pay the clerk to have the papers sent to the defendant by certified mail, or you can pay the sheriff of the county where the defendant lives to serve the papers in person. The clerk can tell you the current fees charged by the sheriff.
Make sure you have the right name and address! If the defendant isn't served properly your case can't go forward, and it may be dismissed, or "thrown out" of court, and you'll then have to start all over again. If you're suing a corporation, you need to serve its "registered agent" or "process agent." She's the person named by the corporation who's responsible for accepting important documents and papers on behalf of or for the corporation. If you're suing a sole proprietorship, you need to serve the business's owner or its registered agent, if it has one. If you're suing a partnership, you need to serve its general or managing partner.
Once you've filed suit, the defendant can do any number of things, such as :