Small Claims Court
» Who May File Suit in Ward Eight Justice of the Peace Court
The person or company being sued may be an individual, a sole proprietor, a partnership, a corporation or an incorporated association such as a club or association. The person being sued is called the “defendant”. In some cases there may be more than one defendant. It is important that you properly identify and sue the correct person or company that has caused you damage or injury.
For your suit to filed in the proper “venue”, the following general guidelines apply:
- If the defendant is an individual, his “domicile” should be within Ward Eight of Caddo Parish.
- If the defendant is a corporation, its “registered officer” should be located within Ward Eight of Caddo Parish. For this information, you may wish to check with the Louisiana Secretary of State at 225-925-4704.
- If the defendant is an unincorporated association, its principal business establishment should be located within Ward Eight of Caddo Parish.
- If the defendant is a partnership, the action is brought where its principal business establishment is located within Ward Eight of Caddo Parish.
» Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Suit?
NO, you do not have to hire a lawyer to represent you in Justice of the Peace Court. However, suits require written pleadings, which can be too complicated for an individual to prepare on his own behalf The technical rules of evidence are relaxed and all relevant evidence is submitted to the judge. Once the judge is satisfied that sufficient evidence has been provided, he will then issue a ruling.
» What Are the Costs to File a Suit?
The Justice of the Peace Court exists as a service to you, however it is not free. You will be required to pay a deposit before filing your suit. The Court will provide you with a schedule of fees and tell you how much the deposit will be. The deposit is an advance toward the actual costs incurred during the suit. The Court cannot predict exactly how much final costs will be. If the costs exceed the deposit, you will be billed for the remaining balance. If a judgment is rendered in your favor, the Court may order the defendant to reimburse you for the costs. The court cannot guarantee that you will get your money back. If you file a suit YOU are responsible to the Court for payment of all costs.
» Where Do I File a Suit?
You may file your suit by contacting the court at (318) 869-4267. The mailing address of the court is 5057 Dixie Garden Drive, Shreveport, Louisiana 71105. Also, the court MUST receive all original documentation, plus deposit fees, within five (5) days of you facsimile in order for the suit to proceed.
» How Do I Begin a Suit?
The Court has standard forms already prepared for most types of suits. You will be provided with all the necessary forms to file your suit. You will be required to provide the following information and documentation at the time of your filing:
- The amount of money you are suing for;
- The correct name and address for the defendant(s);
- The reason why you believe the defendant owes you money;
- A demand that the Judge award you the amount sued for plus court cost and judicial interest.
- TWO copies of any contracts, leases, bills, receipts, cancelled checks, statements, etc. that support or prove your claim.
You will be asked to sign the pleading and furnish your telephone number and address where you may be contacted. You must notify the Court of any changes during the pendency of the lawsuit.
» How Much Should I Sue For?
Sue for the sum of money, which your loss or damage caused you, plus court costs, and judicial interest.
On a promissory note or open account, sue for the current balance due. You must sue for the full amount when you file your original pleading. If you decide later that the defendant owes you more than you sued for, it will be necessary for you to file an amended or supplemental petition. This will increase your filing fee, and could require additional time in court.
If you receive a judgment in your favor, you can claim interest on the sum of money owed running from the date you originally filed suit until the money is actually paid. This is known as “judicial interest” and law fixes the sum.
Court costs are usually, but not always, assessed against the losing party. However, if you file suit and then come to an out of court settlement, you must still pay the court costs even though you dropped the suit.
» What Happens After You File Suit?
After you file suit, the Court will prepare a “citation” to be served on the defendant along with a copy of your petition. The petition informs the defendant that he has been sued and will have ten (10) calendar days (inclusive of holidays) in which to answer.
If the defendant cannot be located, you will not be able to proceed with your suit without an attorney. If the defendant has been served and has failed to file an answer or other responsive pleadings within ten (10) days, a judgment may be rendered in your behalf without necessitating a court appearance by you. In this case, the Judge will review the record and sign a default judgment in your favor. If not, your original court date will stand and you must appear before the judge and present your evidence for confirmation of a “default judgment”.
» How Should I Prepare For Trial?
Since, you the plaintiff have the burden of proving your case before the Judge at trial, you should bring with you any important documents relating to your case including but not limited to pictures, accident reports, receipts, checks, messages, contracts, leases, and anything else you feel can help prove your claim. You are also responsible for arranging to have witnesses appear to testify on your behalf If it is necessary for you to call a witness who does not wish to appear voluntarily, you may ask the court to issue a “subpoena” directing the person to appear. An additional court deposit is required for each witness you wish to have subpoenaed.
If a settlement is reached prior to trial, notify the Court IMMEDIATELY.
» What Should I Do the Day of the Trial?
Arrive early and bring all court papers with you. If you are the party suing and arrive late, or do not appear at all, your case may be DISMISSED. If you are the defendant and arrive late, or do not appear at all, you may LOSE WITHOUT A HEARING. The court will tolerate no tardiness.
The plaintiff will present his case first, and he may be allowed to present evidence in an effort to disprove the defendant’s case. There will be no jury. The Judge will hear and decide the entire case. It is his duty to sufficiently develop the facts to render a fair judgment. The Judge can summon witnesses, raise defense testimony, ask questions and generally take whatever action is appropriate to ascertain the true facts of the case.
» What Do I Do As the Plaintiff?
Present your facts in a straightforward manner. Tell the truth; remember; you will be under oath. Explain to the Judge why you believe the defendant owes you money, or has failed to live up to his commitments. Have your witnesses present to give their testimony. Bring all your evidence and/or exhibits with you. You will be given a chance to present additional or “rebuttal” evidence at the close of the defendant’s case.
» What Does the Defendant Have To Do?
If the defendant decides to contest the case brought against him, he will be given instructions and he must file his answer IN WRITING with the Court within ten (10) days of the date he was served or the plaintiff may receive a default judgment. The Defendant Answer must be truthful and contain every defense they intend to raise at trial.
Some possible defenses include:
- No jurisdiction or improper “venue”;
- Contributory negligence (negligence on the part of the plaintiff);
- Discharge of bankruptcy;
- Error or mistake;
- Fraud or illegality on plaintiff’s part;
- Previous compromise or payment on an obligation
If the defendant has a “counterclaim” or “reconventional demand” against the plaintiff, they must file it with their answer. HOWEVER, THEY WILL BE REQUIRED TO PAY A DEPOSIT AND COURT COST SINCE THEY ARE NOW INSTITUTING A SUIT AGAINST THE OTHER PARTY.
» What Happens After the Trial?
If the judge decides in favor of the plaintiff, he may award you only part of the money you requested or whatever amount of damages he thinks you have proved you deserve. The judgment of the court becomes a binding legal obligation after it is signed, unless one of the parties requests a new trial within three (3) days after judgment. However, a judgment merely establishes that the defendant owes you money. IT DOES NOT NECSSARILY MEAN YOU WILL BE PAID.
Some judgment creditors are never paid, for various reasons. In order to collect your money, you may have to take further action; such as asking the Court to “garnish” the defendant’s wages, or “seize” and sell certain exempt property that belongs to the defendant. An additional deposit is required for each procedure.
If you need more information about the defendant in order to take these steps you may request a “Judgment Debtor Examination” to require the defendant to appear in Court and produce evidence of his assets and/or employment status. There is a court cost deposit required for filing this action, and it is not a new trial or hearing.
» THERE ARE NO APPEALS IN SMALL CLAIMS
For further information please contact the court at (318) 869-4267 or Email Us.