How To File Your Case In Small Claims Court
HOW TO FILE YOUR CASE IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT
If you want to file a lawsuit against another person or business, you must follow these rules and steps:
(1) Complete a Notice of Claim form
Briefly, clearly and legibly describe the nature and amount of your claim against the Defendant. You will have an opportunity to explain more fully in Court. This form is also available online or at the Clerk’s Office.
(2) Attach a copy of any written contract, written agreement, invoice, etc.
If your suit is based on a written contract or a written agreement of any kind, you must attach a copy of the written contract or agreement, lease, account statement, invoice, etc. to your Notice of Claim form.
If your suit is based on an account, you must attach an Affidavit of Debt to your Notice of Claim form. This form is available online or at the Clerk’s Office.
(3) Make three (3) copies of the completed Notice of Claim form (front and back) and all attachments. You need one original and three (3) copies.
(4) Give the Clerk the name (with the correct spelling), current U.S. mailing address and telephone number for all Defendants.
The Clerk will not accept your Notice of Claim unless you have provided a current mailing address for a Defendant. Without a current mailing address, the Defendant cannot be served and your case cannot move forward.
(5) Decide if you want the Defendant served with your Notice of Claim by the Sheriff or by Certified Mail with a return receipt card.
The Sheriff will take a copy of the Notice of Claim (and the Court Summons) to the physical location of the Defendant’s residence address you provided. The Sheriff will give the Notice of Claim and Summons to any adult present at the address. If an adult is not at home to accept the Notice of Claim and Summons, the Sheriff will attach the Notice and Summons to the front door of the Defendant’s residence or the common front door of the building which houses the Defendant’s residence.
The Sheriff will also mail a copy of the Notice of Claim and Summons to the same address by regular U.S. mail. The Sheriff will then file the Return of Service with the Clerk. You can check the online court records to see if your Notice and Summons have been served by the Sheriff.
If your Notice and Summons are served by Certified Mail, the Clerk will issue a green return receipt card for the Defendant to sign showing he/she has been served. If nobody is home when the U.S. mail carrier delivers the Certified Mail and if the Defendant does not respond to the notice left by the U.S. mail carrier to come pick up the Certified Mail, then the Defendant has not been legally and properly served. You can check the online Court records to see if your Notice and Summons have been served by Certified Mail.
(6) Pay the filing fee and the service of process fees to the Clerk.
You must pay the fees at the time you file your case. If you win your case, the Defendant will be ordered to repay this money to you. If you do not win your case, this money will not be refunded to you.
In some situations, if you believe you cannot afford to pay the filing fees and service fees, you may file a Verified Motion to Waive Pre-Payment of Filing Fees and Court Costs and Summary of Household Income and Expenses. These forms are available online or at the Clerk’s or Court’s Office. After reviewing your Motion, the Judge may waive all the filing fee or only some of the filing fee or may deny the Motion (which means you must pay the entire filing fee).
(7) Take the original and all three (3) copies of your completed Notice of Claim with attachments to the Superior Court 4 office (on the same floor as the Clerk’s Office) to obtain a court date.
This initial court date will most likely be on a Friday morning at 10:00 AM. The Defendant must be served with your Notice and Summons at least ten (10) days before this first court date.
The Clerk will then send your Notice to the Sheriff for personal service or will send your Notice via Certified Mail, depending on which method of service you have chosen and for which you have paid.
If the Sheriff or Clerk is not able to find and serve (notify) the Defendant within this ten (10) day time period, you may either dismiss your case or ask for a continuance to give you more time to find the Defendant and to try again to serve him/her with notice of your lawsuit.
Once you believe you have now found a current mailing address or location where the Defendant may be served, you must complete the same Notice of Claim form but print the word “ALIAS” at the top of the Notice of Claim. This is now called an Alias Notice of Claim.
Again, attach the same documents, if any, as you did with the original Notice of Claim and again make three (3) copies. You will file the Alias Notice of Claim under the same cause number as you did the original Notice of Claim. You do not have to pay another filing fee (court costs). You do have to have another service fee to serve the Notice of Claim on the Defendant.
You may withdraw or dismiss your claim any time before the trial. But fees paid to the Clerk for filing and service upon the Defendant cannot be refunded.
If you have questions about the procedures you must follow, ask the Clerk or Court staff for help. If you need legal advice, you must talk to an attorney. The Clerk, the Court staff and the Judge can never help you with legal advice including telling you whether or not you should file your case or your chances of winning your case or your counterclaim.
You can always look up your case to see if Motions have been granted and when Orders are completed by the Court at this link. It usually takes about two or three days from the time an Order is issued by the Judge to when the Order or information is displayed on Court Records.
SMALL CLAIMS MANUAL
This Manual has been prepared to provide you with general knowledge of the operation of Small Claims Courts in Indiana and specifically, here in Tippecanoe County. While the Manual does not cover all areas of the law or procedure, it does address many of the requirements, issues, procedures and problem areas experienced in Small Claims Court.
Hopefully, this manual will help you in preparing or defending your case. If you have a question about a particular procedure, practice or court policy, check with the court staff or clerk. He or she may be able to assist you.
Please read the Manual from cover to cover. There are also a number of prepared forms available for your use. The forms are designed to be self-explanatory and are available online at www.tippecanoe.in.gov or at the Clerk’s and Court’s offices. Please check with the clerk staff or court staff to see if a form is available to meet your needs.
There is also more information available at www.in.gov/judiciary/selfservice. Although the court staff and the clerks cannot give you legal advice, they will try to answer any procedural questions you might have after you have read this Manual.
At the end of the Manual, you will find a glossary of legal terms and definitions of words which are used in the Manual and which are used in court. Refer to this glossary when you have a question about the exact meaning of a legal term or word.