The case begins with a complaint. Small claims complaint forms are also available at the court.
Your complaint must contain the following information:
- Correctly identify the parties. The name and address of the plaintiff and the name and address of the defendant. You must have the correct name of the defendant otherwise any judgment you get may not be enforceable.
- A brief but clear statement of the reason the suit is being brought. In other words, you need to tell the court why you believe the defendant owes you money. You should include the date, time and place of the transaction or incident on which you base your complaint.
- The amount of money you believe the defendant owes you.
- A copy of any relevant contract, cancelled or NSF check, promissory note or account should be attached to the complaint. If you wish to provide any documents at the time the complaint is filed, you must provide one copy of all documents for the court and one copy for each defendant named in the complaint.
- You must sign your complaint in the presence of a clerk at the court or in the presence of a notary public if you intend to mail the complaint to the court.
- Your complaint must be accompanied by a filing fee of $75.00 for one defendant and $10.00 for each additional defendant named on the complaint.
After the complaint has been filed, the court does two things: 1) schedules a hearing on the claim 30 to 40 days from the date of filing with notice to the plaintiff and 2) notifies the defendant by certified mail at the address supplied by the plaintiff that they have been sued and of the hearing date.
The defendant does not have to file an answer or any other paperwork. However, if the defendant wishes to contest the action, he must simply appear at the scheduled hearing with the evidence (documents, witnesses, etc.) needed to defend the lawsuit.
Whenever you file a document of any kind with the court (with the exception of the complaint) you must also serve a copy of that document upon the opposing party. You accomplish this by mailing or hand delivering a copy to the opposing party at the last known address.
You must prove to the court that you served the opposing party by adding a statement to the document informing the court of the date and manner of service. For example:
"A copy of the foregoing document was mailed on the 1st day of May, 2011 to John Smith at 12345 West Mason Road, Milan, Ohio 44846."