In Ohio, civil complaints up to $3,000 can be handled in small claim courts. For lawsuits seeking more than $3,000 in damages, lawsuits are filed in regular municipal court. Small claims court is much simpler and designed for people to represent themselves. However, if you are suing for more than $3,000 and have to file in municipal court, contact an attorney or Legal Aid in your area as the steps are far more complicated.
Attempt to resolve the dispute one last time before filing a civil lawsuit. This is not required but recommended by the state of Ohio. Send a letter by certified mail to the other party, summarizing the basic claims of your case and the money you are owed. If you receive no response or a negative response, proceed with the filing.
Gather necessary documents. Before filing a small claims case in Ohio, you will need at least the name and address of the defendant, a list of possible witnesses, and any supporting evidence.
Visit the municipal court in Ohio. You will choose the county where the defendant lives or where the dispute occurred. There will be a small claims division located inside the courthouse. Ask the clerk for a form to file a small claim.
Complete the form and add as much detail as possible in your filing. Return the form to the clerk in order to file the lawsuit. Pay the fees required when filing the lawsuit. The fees vary throughout Ohio and depend on how much money you are seeking in your lawsuit. Make at least three copies of the forms you filed, and keep one for your records.
Serve the defendant. In Ohio, you can serve the defendant by mail or in person. If the defendant is also an Ohio resident, you can have the clerk send a copy of the suit by certified mail to the other party. There will be a fee if you choose this option. If the other party does not accept the suit by mail, doesn't live in Ohio or is a corporation, the lawsuit must be served in person. Hire a private process server or contact the sheriff's office to have the defendant served.