Evictions

Small Claims

SMALL CLAIMS DIVISION

ALEXANDRIA CITY COURT

WARDS 1, 2 AND 8

RAPIDES PARISH, LOUISIANA

 

 

 

Quick access:

 

What is Small Claims Court?

What kinds of suits may be filed?

What must I have with me?

How do I file the claim?

What happens after I file?

How do I prepare for Court?

What if someone sues me?

What happens at trial?

If I win, how do I collect?

May I do anything if I lose?

Preparedness checklist.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS SMALL CLAIMS COURT?

 

The Small Claims Division is a part of the Alexandria City Court established pursuant to Louisiana Statutes 13:5201-5212. You may sue to resolve minor civil disputes or try to recover claims of up to $5,000.00, plus interest, court cost and attorney fees.  A claim, generally speaking, asserts a legal right you may have.

 

You may use the Small Claims Court to sue anyone who LIVES, WORKS OR DOES BUSINESS within Wards 1, 2 and 8 of Rapides Parish.

 

You may sue in Small Claims Court when you have an automobile accident within Wards 1, 2 and 8 of Rapides Parish, no matter where the other driver may live.

 

You must be EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS OF AGE to file a case in Small Claims Court, but minors may sue through a parent or guardian.  An officer or employee of a corporation or unincorporated association may file suit on behalf of an organization if the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000.00 and involves an open account or negotiable instrument (La R.S. 37:212C); otherwise a corporation must be represented in court by a licensed attorney.

 

 Plaintiff’s access to the Small Claims Court is limited to two (2) filings per party per calendar month.

 

WHAT KINDS OF SUITS MAY BE FILED IN THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT?

 

You may sue when you believe someone owes you money.  For example, you may sue if:

 

- Someone fails to return a deposit to you.

- Goods and/or merchandise that you purchased are defective and the seller refuses to repair, refund or replace.

- You have a loss due to an accident.

- Your property is damaged or destroyed by someone performing a service for you.

- Action for possession of personal property, excluding real estate.

The following type cases MAY NOT be instituted in the Small Claims Court:

- Suits involving annulment, separation, divorce, alimony, separation of property.

- Succession, interdiction, receivership liquidation, habeas corpus, or the title to real estate.

- Suits against a state agency, parish, municipality or other political subdivision.

- Suits against a public official performing official duties.

 

Come to the Alexandria City Court, 515 Washington Street, telephone number (318) 449-5146.  The cost for filing a Small Claims action is listed on the Fee Sheet attached.  Payment may be made in cash, Cashiers check or Money Order.

 

YOU MUST HAVE WITH YOU:

 

The complete and proper legal name and address of the party you wish to sue.  This party is called the “DEFENDANT”.  You will be the “PLAINTIFF”.

 

If a business is being sued, call the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Corporation Division at (225) 925-4704 to find out if the business is incorporated or if it is using a “trade name” (not incorporated).

 

If the business is incorporated, you will be given the name and address of the REGISTRATION AGENT for the corporation.  That is the PARTY (PERSON) who will receive notice of the suit.

 

 If the business is not incorporated, you must find the NAME OF THE OWNER of the business, not the name of the business itself.

 

If you are suing someone as a result of an automobile accident and you do not know the owner of the automobile, the license number is helpful for determining the name and address of the owner.  Call Motor Vehicle Registration at (318) 487-5933.

 

 It is IMPORTANT THAT YOU BRING A COPY OF ANY WRITTEN EVIDENCE that may be helpful in proving your claim in court, such as:

 

- Contracts

- Leases

- Receipts

- Paid Bills

 

Bring any document or other evidence you feel is important.

 

FILING YOUR CLAIM:

 

1. The Clerk will give you a form entitled “Statement of Claim and Citation”.  (This form can also be downloaded by visiting the Online Forms section) Be prepared to provide the following information:

 

- Your name, address and telephone number where you can be reached during the day.

- The correct name and address of the person you are suing.  If it is a corporation, you will need the proper name and address and the registered agent’s name and address.

- A simple but COMPLETE statement of why you are suing.  This should include:

- Dates and locations as they relate to your claim and the amount of money you are trying to recover.

 

Remember: The limit is $5,000.00 not including interest, court costs and attorney fees.

 

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 the rate is fixed by law.

 

 

 

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU FILE SUIT?

 

The Clerk’s Office will forward the defendant’s copy of your Statement of Claim and Citation, which includes an “ATTENTION SHEET” and an “ANSWER” by certified mail to the defendant.  This “ATTENTION SHEET” informs the defendant that he has been sued and will have ten (10) calendar days (inclusive of holidays and weekdays) in which to answer.

 

You, the Plaintiff, may call City Court to see if the Defendant has filed and “ANSWER”.

 If the defendant has filed and Answer, or other documents or pleadings, the Clerk of Court will fix a trial date and inform the parties.

 

It is the defendant’s right to request that the action be transferred from Small Claims Division to the regular civil docket.  A written motion requesting this transfer must be filed with the Clerk’s Office within the same ten (10) calendar days allowed for the defendant’s answer to be filed and a check for the fee of filing.  Transferring the case to the regular civil docket preserves both parties’ rights to appeal an unfavorable judgment of the Court.  An appeal would permit a review of the Trail Judge’s ruling by a higher court to determine whether the Judge properly applied the law to the facts of the case.  Transfer to the regular civil trial division also means that there will be no relaxation of the legal rules of evidence.  In such cases, you should be alerted to the advisability of hiring an attorney.

 

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR COURT?

 

You, as the Plaintiff, have the burden of proving your case before the Judge at a trial by a preponderance of the evidence.  This is a balancing test by which the Judge weighs the probabilities of accuracy of each party’s respective claim.  The following may be helpful in preparing you for trial:

 

1. Ask for WITNESSES.  These are people who saw what happened or have knowledge which might help your case; have them arrive in Court on the Hearing date.  If a witness will not agree voluntarily, you may ask the Clerk to SUBPOENA him/her.  There is a fee for each Subpoena issues.  (See attached sheet.)  If a witness is not subpoenaed and does not appear at the Hearing, his absence will not ordinarily constitute good ground for a postponement or a continuance in your case.  Your case may still be heard even if your “unsubpoenaed” witness fails to appear.

 

2. Gather all the evidence that related to your claim or your defense if you are suing, or being sued.  This includes CONTRACTS, RECEIPTS, PROMISSORY NOTES, LETTERS, CANCELED CHECKS, WRITTEN AGREEMENTS, or other written material.  BRING THIS EVIDENCE TO COURT WITH YOU.

 

3. Go over the facts and organize them in your mind.  You may want to write down the most important facts to bring out since you will need to give a clear statement of the facts in Court.  If a settlement is reached prior to trial, notify the Clerk’s Office in writing IMMEDIATELY, so that case can be dismissed from the docket.  If time does not permit a letter, telephone the Clerk’s Office at once.  If you find that you are unable to attend Court at the date and time set, you MUST IMMEDIATELY NOTIFY THE COURT IN WRITING to seek a continuance.  Continuance requests that do not reflect the consent of the opposing party are not automatically granted and must be supported by good cause.

 

 

WHAT IF SOMEONE SUES ME?

 

 If you have been served with a Citation, you are referred to as the “DEFENDANT” in this matter.  Most importantly, DO NOT IGNORE the Statement of Claim and Citation and Attention Sheet.  You must decide whether you wish to transfer the case to the regular civil docket.  This will enable you to preserve your right to appeal any unfavorable judgment.  However, you should be aware that appeal process can be lengthy and costly and may require that you hire an attorney.

 

 If you decide to contest the case you MUST file your Answer IN WRITING with the Clerk’s Office within ten (10) day period allowed.  IF YOU DO NOT DO SO A JUDGMENT WILL BE ENTERED AGAINST YOU.  This means that you will lose without a chance to tell your side of the story.  Your answer should be truthful and contain every defense you intend to raise.

 

 Possible defenses include:

- No jurisdiction or improper “venue” (wrong court)

- Contributory negligence (negligence on the part of the Plaintiff)

- Discharge in Bankruptcy

- Error or mistake

- Fraud or illegality on Plaintiff’s part

- Previous compromise or payment of an obligation

 

If you think you have a claim of your own against the party suing you, you may include it in your answer.  The plaintiff must be served with this “Counterclaim” or Reconventional Demand: before the trial.

 

WHAT HAPPENS AT A TRIAL?

 

1. Arrive early and bring all court papers with you.  If you are the party suing and arrive late, or do not appear at all, you case may be DISMISSED.

 

If you are the party being sued and arrive late, or do not appear at all, a judgment may and can be entered against you.  In other words, YOU MAY LOSE WITHOUT A HEARING IF YOU ARE LATE.

 

2. If you are SUING and the other party is not there, you must still show proof of your claim before you can get a judgment in your favor.

 

If you are BEING SUED and the other party is not there, ask that the case against you be dismissed (so you will win the case.)

 

3. If you are suing, you will have first chance to present evidence and explain why you are suing.  You have the responsibility of proving that the amount of money claimed is owed to you by the defendant.  This is where you call your witnesses or testify yourself to prove your case.  If you are the one being sued, you will have the opportunity to ask questions of your opponent and/or and witnesses he/she may call to testify.  (Called cross-examination.)  THE PURPOSE OF YOUR QUESTIONS SHOULD BE TO SHOW THAT YOUR OPPONENT’S CASE DOES NOT “HOLD WATER”.  This is not the time for you to make statements or argue with the witness or opponent.  After they have put on their evidence, you will have a chance to tell your side, have your witnesses testify, and present evidence.  The Plaintiff then has an opportunity to ask you and/or your witnesses questions.  After all the testimony is taken, the Judge will announce the decision as to which party has won the case and the amount of the judgment, if an amount of money is awarded.  There are times when a Judge will not render a decision immediately after the trial but rather take the matter under advisement.  You will be notified of a decision by mail.

 

 A Judgment rendered in Small Claims Division becomes final and executor three days after it is signed, or served on the defendant when service is necessary, unless within that period of time a Motion for a new Trial is filed by the defendant.  A Judgment merely established that the defendant owes you money.  IT DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN YOU WILL BE PAID.

 

IF I WIN, HOW DO I COLLECT MY MONEY?

 

1. Ask the Judge to order the ENTIRE amount you have won to be paid in a single payment.

 

2. It is not the duty or the function of the Court to pay or collect what is owed to you.  IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE ANY AND ALL LEGAL ACTION NECESSARY TO COLLECT ON YOUR JUDGMENT.

 

3. In order to collect, you may have to take further action; such as a garnishment of the losing party’s bank account or garnish his/her wages, or “seize” and sell certain nonexempt property that belongs to the defendant.  There is a Court feel for these actions.

 

4. If you do not know of any assets of the losing party, you may request a “Judgment Debtor Examination” for an ORAL EXAMINATION as to the whereabouts of his/her assets.  The fee is listed on the attached sheet for wiling this action and it is not a new trial or hearing.  You will be allowed to orally examine the defendant in regard to assets, employment, etc. at a place suitable for such examination.  This information may help you in finding other legal means for collecting of your judgment.

 

MAY I DO ANYTHING IF I LOSE?

 

1. Remember you may lose a case by default simply because YOU ARE NOT PRESENT on the Hearing date.  If you are notified that you have been dismissed, YOU MAY STILL HAVE A WAY OUT.

 

 Consider the following:

 Did you file an “Answer”?

 Were you notified of the Hearing date?

 

 If not, you will need to file a MOTION TO VACATE the Default Judgment, or a MOTION TO REINSTATE the case if it is dismissed.  A Hearing date will be set to hear your argument as to why the decision should be set aside.  Bring all your evidence and/or witness(es) to support your motion to the Hearing date to present to the Judge.  If your motion is granted by the Court, the case is reopened and you will have an opportunity to have a trial before the Judge.

 

2. If you lost your case in a Small Claims hearing, YOU MAY TRY TO GET A NEW TRIAL.  Time delays are important on this motion and you should remember the following:

You must file a written Motion for New Trial within three (3) days after the Judgment is signed, or three (3) days after it is served on the losing party.  The three days excludes weekends and holidays.

 

CHECKLIST

 

PLAINTIFF

 

1. Does claim fall within jurisdiction of Small Claims Division?

2. Are you suing the true defendant?

3. Do you have the proper legal name and address?

4. Did you fill out a complete statement of why you are suing?  Include amount of money you seek to recover, date and locations related to your claim.

5. Include copies of written evidence.

6. Need your complete name, address, phone number and signature.

 

DEFENDANT

 

1. Do you wish to contact an attorney?

2. Do you wish to transfer the case to the regular docket?  Must file request within 10 days.

3. Do you wish to contest the claim?  Must file written answer within 10 days.  In your answer consider:

Is this the proper court?

Has debt been discharged in bankruptcy?

Was there negligence on part of the Plaintiff?

Has there been a compromise or payment?

4.  Do you wish to Counterclaim against the Plaintiff?

 

 

GLOSSARY

PLAINTIFF

The party or person who is suing or filing suit against another party or person.

 

DEFENDANT

The party or person who is being sued or having suit brought against.

 

SERVICE

When a copy of the suit or Statement of Claim and Citation is served or presented to a party by a duly authorized agency, thereby putting that party on notice of the action.

 

VENUE

The place or parish in which alleged events from which legal action rises; takes place; a statement showing that a case is brought to the proper court of authority.

 

INFORPORATED

Formed into a legal corporation under applicable state law.

 

AGENT

A person or party acting legally on behalf of another person, party or corporation.

 

SUIT NUMBER

The number assigned to your suit, or petition at the time of filing.

 

GARNISHEE

Defendant’s employer or someone who has money or property in his possession belonging to defendant, or a bank where defendant has funds.

 

 

 

 

 

515 Washington St., Alexandria, LA 71301

Office Hours: M - F   8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Phone #: (318) 449 - 5146