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KY Filing a Small Claims Suit

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:

  • The defendant (the person you're suing) lives
  • Where the injury or property damage happened, such as the county where the car accident happened
  • The defendant does business or has an office, if the defendant is a business
  • Where the property is located if your case is a landlord-tenant dispute, such as a suit to get a security deposit refund
  • If there's a written contract involved, like a lease or sales contract, check to see if it states exactly where exactly any suit must be filed

    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.

    Complaint

    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:

        Filing Fees

        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.

        Defendant's Options

        Once you've filed suit, the defendant can do any number of things, such as :

          Questions for Your Attorney

          • Your name, address and a telephone number where you can be contacted during the day
          • The defendant's name and address
          • The amount of money you want the defendant to pay, or the personal property you want returned to you
          • Reasons why the defendant owes you money, or why the property you're suing for rightfully belongs to you
          • A business that's not a corporation, like a sole proprietorship or a "dba" (meaning "doing business as"), you should contact the business license office or agency for the county in which the business is located to get the legal names and addresses for the business and its owner. You can also try checking with the Kentucky Secretary of State for this information
          • A corporation, you can get its exact name and address from Secretary of State. You'll also find the name of the company's "registered agent," the person who accepts important documents for the corporation
          • A partnership, you should list the name of the partnership as well as the individual partners as defendants. The Secretary of State can help you get that information for some partnerships, but you may also need to check with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB)
          • Settle the claim, that is, simply agree with you and pay you or return the property you want. If you agree to a settlement before trial, you need to fill out and file a special form with the court clerk. The clerk can give the form you need
          • Appear in court on the date and at the time scheduled by the clerk when the suit was filed the suit and explain why you shouldn't win the case
          • Default. If the defendant doesn't appear or show up on the scheduled date, he "defaults" and you may win automatically. You'll have to show the judge that the defendant was properly served with your Complaint, and you'll have to show the judge that your claim against defendant was valid
          • Counterclaim, or file a claim against you. The defendant has to file it with the clerk at least five days before trial, and he has to send you a copy of it to give you time to prepare. If you need more time, you can ask the court for more time, which is called a continuance. If the counterclaim is for more than $1,500, the court will transfer the case out of the small claims court and into the regular district court. This will be a much more complicated trial, and so you and the defendant should consider hiring attorneys
          • Ask for a continuance, which postpones the trial to another day. The request has to be writing and there must be a good reason for it, such as illness
          • I filed a small claims suit against a dog owner, who lives on the next street over from me, because her dog bit me. She says that she never received "notice," but I know the complaint was mailed to the right address. What can I do now?
          • How much will you charge me to fill out the Complaint and other papers and represent me in small claims court?
          • The defendant I sued in small claims court said that I filed suit in the wrong district court and the case was moved to another court. Do I have to file another Compliant and pay another filing fee?
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