Small Claims Court

General
Small Claims Court is part of the North Carolina court system with jurisdiction over disputes involving Four Thousand Dollars ($4,000.00) or less. The judge, known as a magistrate, hears the case without a jury. Most cases are handled simply by the parties, without formal legal representation, although lawyers may appear. Hearings are conducted soon after suit is commenced, and they are generally short and straightforward. Both sides are heard, including any witnesses, and the decision, almost always, is rendered on the spot. Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, either side may appeal to District Court, where the procedure becomes more complicated.

How do I file a Claim in Small Claims Court?
To bring suit in small claims court you must complete a Summons and a Complaint and file them in the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the defendant (the person against whom the complaint is made) resides. The forms are available at the Clerk’s office, together with basic information regarding the procedure. There are court costs to file your complaint and to have the Sheriff serve the Summons and Complaint on the Defendant. If you prevail at trial, those are the “costs” that are included in the judgment and are, therefore, recoverable.

How Does Small Claims Court Work?
The party filing suit, known as the Plaintiff, has the burden of proving his case by the preponderance of evidence. Whether you are the Plaintiff or the Defendant, your statement of facts is evidence. You may call witnesses and offer any documentation, or physical evidence, which serves to prove or disprove any fact. You may question the opposing party, or any of his witnesses. The Magistrate will likely question both sides.

Can I appeal the Magistrate’s Decision?
Either side may appeal the Magistrate’s decision to District Court by filing a written Notice of Appeal within ten days (10) after the judgment. The appealing party must pay the District Court a certain amount within twenty (20) days of the judgment. If the case concerned payment of money, it need not be paid until the District Court rules. If the case involved recovery of property or eviction, the losing party may have to pay or provide security pending a new outcome.

Verified June 2011

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