Small claims courts in Ohio handle legal disputes involving unpaid bills or wages, defective products, accidents and other minor claims. You can only file your case in small claims court if the amount you're asking for is $3,000 or less plus interest and expenses, and if you're not asking for anything other than money. Small claims courts also cannot handle any case involving punitive damages or libel, or any claim against the state or federal government.
Pick a Court
When you decide to file a small claims case, the first step is to figure out which court to file in. Each small claims court has jurisdiction over a particular area. You can either file in the area where the defendant is located or the area where the incident that provoked your suit occurred.
For instance, if you're filing for damages from a minor car accident in Cleveland, you can file in the Cleveland Municipal Court or in the court for the town where the defendant lives.
If you're suing more than one defendant at the same time, only one of them has to live in the area for the court to have jurisdiction. If you're suing a business, pick your court based on the business address.
Call the Court
Even though the rules for small claims court are governed by Ohio state law rather than by city ordinances, Chapter 1925 of the Ohio Code gives each court the right to set its own procedures. In effect, this means that every small claims court in Ohio may have different rules and different court costs, so call the court where you intend to file before you go there and ask what you need to bring to file a small claims case.
Get Everything Together
Make sure you have everything the court needs before you file your claim. For instance, if you're filing in Cleveland you'll need the name and address of every defendant, the evidence that your claim is valid, any receipts or written estimates that support your suit and, as of publication, the $37 filing fee for the first defendant plus $7 per additional defendant. The court won't ask you for the evidence when you file, but requests that you have it ready anyway.
If you're filing in another court, you may be asked to bring a slightly different list of items. However, most courts will request the filing fee, witness list with addresses, list of evidence you intend to present and the name, address and phone number of each defendant. If you're suing a business, you can get all the information for the business by calling the Ohio Secretary of State at 877-767-6446.
It's important to bring everything the court asks for, but the single most important item is the defendant's correct legal name and contact information. If the court can't serve a summons on the defendant, your case cannot be heard.
File the Case
Once you have everything you need to file your case, go to the court and request a small claims form or download one from the court's website and bring it in with all of your other materials.
When you're filling out your form, remember that you must request interest, court costs and enforcement costs to be added to your claim or you won't receive them.