Is a customer refusing to pay for the repairs you made to her car? Or is a former landlord refusing to let you get some personal belongings you left behind or refusing to refund all of your security deposit? These are the kinds of claims or disputes that are resolved by the Mississippi small claims courts.
And, now that you're ready to file a small claims lawsuit to get your money or property, 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
You file a small claims case with the clerk of the appropriate justice court. There's at least one justice court in each of the 82 counties of the state. Generally, you need to file your suit in the justice court for the county where the defendant (the person you're suing) lives, or in the county where your claim arose. For example, if you're suing to get money for injuries you suffered in a car accident, you may file your lawsuit in the county where the accident happened. If there's a written contract involved in the case, like a lease or sales contract, it may say where exactly any lawsuit must be filed.
If you don't file the lawsuit in the right county, 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.
Declaration and Affidavit
Lawsuits begin when the plaintiff, the person who's suing, files a "complaint." In the Mississippi claims courts, you need to fill out and file a "Declaration and Affidavit." The form is straightforward, but if you need some help, the clerk can give you some assistance, but don't expect legal advice about your lawsuit.
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:
- 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 a description of the property you want the defendant to turnover to you
- Reasons why the defendant owes you money, or why the property is rightfully yours
It's very important that you have the proper name and address of the party you're suing. If you're suing:
- A business that's not a corporation, like a sole proprietorship or "dba" (meaning "doing business as"), you should contact the business or occupational license office in the city or county where the business is located. Or try the local Better Business Bureau (BBB). There you should be able to get the legal names and addresses for the business and its owner
- A corporation, you can get its exact name and address from Mississippi's 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. Again the Secretary of State can help you get that information for some partnerships, or you can also check with the BBB and local business or occupational license office