A civil lawsuit is filed in a civil court. It involves an individual, or plaintiff, filing a complaint against another individual, or defendant, whom they believe has injured them in some way or has caused them property damage.
There are several different types of claims and disputes that civil courts handle. These include legal issues in areas of law such as:
- Personal injury;
- Property and real estate;
- Business; and
- Intellectual property disputes.
Small Claims are civil actions where the amount in controversy is $6500.00 or less. Small Claims cases are filed in the civil division of the District Court.
In Small Claims Court, you give up or waive your right to be represented by an attorney and to have a jury trial. While you may appeal from the Magistrate to the District Court Judge, the Judge’s decision is final and cannot be appealed further.
A Small Claims case may be removed to the general Civil Division by request of either party. Should the lawsuit be removed to General Civil, the parties may then have an attorney represent them.
To file a Small Claims in the 71A District court, the Defendant (the person you are suing) must either live in Lapeer County, or the action arose in Lapeer County. You must file your Small Claims in the court which has the venue for the particular area where the defendant lives or where the action arose.
Small Claims Fees:
- Claims up to $600: $30.00
- Claims from $600.01 to $1750: $50.00
- Claims from $1750.01 to $6500.00: $70.00
- Motion fee: $20.00
General Civil Cases Content
Lawsuits filed in the General Division of the District Court involve claims up to $25,000.00. It begins when the Plaintiff files the Summons and Complaint. The Summons and Complaint includes a caption that identifies the parties, the list of facts that give rise to the Plaintiff's claims, and a request for relief (that is, an award of money). District Courts may only award money to compensate for damages, except in landlord/tenant and land contract matters where evictions may be ordered.
Before filing the Summons and Complaint, you must also decide whether you want the case set for trial before the Judge or a trial before a jury. If you select a jury trial, a jury demand fee of $50.00 must be paid in addition to your filing fee. The filing fee is based upon the amount of your complaint which cannot exceed $25,000:
- $000.00 - $600.00 additional fee of $35.00
- $600.01 - $1,750.00 additional fee of $55.00
- $1,750.01 - $10,000.00 additional fee of $75.00; and,
- $10,000.01 - $25,000.00 additional fee of $160.00
- Motion fees = $20.00
Your filing fee may be paid with cash, money order or personal check.
Once the case is filed, the Plaintiff must have the Defendant (the party being sued), served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint. Service can be accomplished by using a process server or by certified, restricted delivery mail. If you do not know a process server, the Court has a list of process servers.
Service of the Defendant with the Summons and Complaint puts the Defendant on notice of the lawsuit. The Defendant must file an answer with the Court within 21 days from the date of being served with the Complaint (28 days if the Defendant was served through the mail). Answer forms can be purchased at the Court for $1.00 per page.
Once the answer is filed with the Court, the Court Clerk will then set the matter for a pretrial conference with the Judge. A pretrial is a court appearance before the Judge where the Judge will briefly discuss the relevant issues in the case and see if a settlement can be reached, the Judge will set a specific time for discovery (procedures used to ascertain facts) and set a trial date.
At a trial, both parties are given ample opportunities to present their case. Either Plaintiff or Defendant may subpoena witnesses to testify on their behalf. Upon the conclusion of the trial, the Judge will render a decision (or a jury if a jury trial was conducted). Either party has the right to appeal the decision to Circuit Court.
Numerous court rules apply to pleadings, discovery, trial, and appeal. Failure to follow these rules could be fatal to your case. Therefore, it is recommended that YOU PROCEED WITH AN ATTORNEY.
If you require special accommodations to use the court because of disabilities, please contact the court immediately to make arrangements.
THIS INFORMATION ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN ONLY THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GENERAL CIVIL DIVISION OF THE COURT. IT IS NOT A COMPLETE STATEMENT OF THE LAW. CLERKS OF THE COURT WILL BE HAPPY TO ASSIST YOU IN THE PROCESSING OF YOUR CLAIM, BUT THEY ARE NOT ATTORNEYS AND CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS, YOU MAY WISH TO CONSULT AN ATTORNEY, OR HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENT YOU.
Collecting Money from a Judgment
If you sued someone for money and received a judgment against that person, you have the right to collect the money.
How Can I Collect My Money?
There are several ways you can collect your money.
First, if the other party (Defendant) has the money and is present at the trial, s/he can pay you right then.
However, if s/he does not have the money at that time and you both agree at the trial, the Judge can set up a payment schedule.
If the Defendant is not present at the trial, the Court will send a copy of the Judgment to the Defendant. The judgment will order the Defendant to pay you in full within 21 days.
Finally, if the Defendant doesn't pay the Judgment as ordered, you will have to collect your month through an execution against property or garnishment.
What is an Execution?
An execution is a court procedure allowing a court officer to seize property belonging to the Defendant which can be sold to pay for the judgment. If you want to file an execution against property, you may purchase the form from the Court for $1.00 per page.
What is a Garnishment?
A Garnishment is a court procedure allowing you to collect your judgment directly from the defendant's wages, bank accounts, or other source such as income tax refund. If you want to file a garnishment, see the court clerk for the proper forums. Instructions are included with the forms. All forms are $1.00 per page.
For garnishing income tax refunds, see Michigan Department of Treasury pamphlet M-1745, revised 8/95.
How Do I Get an Execution Against Property or a Garnishment?
To get an execution against property or a garnishment, you will first need to know where the defendant lives and works, what assets s/he has and where these assets are located, and any other information which identifies the defendant and his/her property.
If you have the information described above, you can start the process for an execution against property or a garnishment by purchasing the forms at the Court for $1.00 per page.
If you don't have the information described above, you will need to order the defendant to appear in court for questioning through a process called discovery. You can start this process by filing a discovery subpoena.
Filing a Discovery Subpoena
You must wait 21 days after your judgment was signed before you can file a discovery subpoena. You can purchase the form from the court for $1.00 per page.
Contact the Court for an appearance date before putting the date and location on the form. Complete both the front of the Subpoena and the Affidavit of Judgment Debtor Examination on the back. A filing fee of $15.00 is required upon filing with the Court and the Judge must sign the Subpoena before it's effective. Once the Subpoena is signed, you must have it served personally on the Defendant. IF you don't know a process server, you may locate one in the phone book. You may include a copy of form DC 87, Affidavit of Judgment Debtor, with the Subpoena for the Defendant to fill out.
Filing an Execution Against Property
You must wait 21 days after your judgment was signed by the Judge before you can get an execution against property. Form MC 19 is used to start the process and may be purchased at the Court for $1.00 per page. Complete the Request and Verification portion of the form. A filing fee of $15 is required by the Court and the Judge must sign the document before it is effective. Once the form has been filed by the Court, you must take the form to a sheriff or court officer to be executed.
When do I get my Money from an Execution Against Property?
Any property that is seized will be sold and the money is given to you. The sheriff or court officer is entitled to fees which will be deducted from the sale of the property.
When do I get my Money for the Garnishment?
You must wait 21 days after the judgment was signed before you can get a garnishment Form MC 12 or MC 13 are used and the forms may be purchased at the Court for $1.00 per page. Filing fees for garnishments are $15.00. There are two types of garnishments: 1.) periodic and 2.) non-periodic.
A periodic writ of garnishment (MC 12) is used to garnish the defendant's wages, rent payments, land contract payments, or other income which is paid to the defendant on a periodic basis. A periodic garnishment is valid for up to 91 days or until the judgment, interest, and costs are paid off, whichever occurs first.
A non-periodic writ of garnishment (MC 13) is used to garnish the defendant's bank account or other property. Once the money has been garnished under the non-periodic writ, the writ is no longer valid. IF there is a remaining balance on the judgment, you must get another writ to collect more money.
Fill in the names and addressed of both the defendant and the garnishee on the Request part of the form. The garnishee is the person or business who has control or possession of the defendant's money. Once you complete the Request, you must file it with the Court. The filing fee of $15.00 must be cash or money order as the Court does not accept personal checks.
The Court will issue the Writ (order) by signing the form. The Request and Writ must be served on the garnishee along with a form called Disclosure (MC 14). If the garnishment is for periodic payments, you must have a check made payable to the garnishee in the amount of $6.00. You must have this writ served on the garnishee. You can do this either by a process server or by certified mail. If you do not know any process servers, you may look in the phone book.
When do I get my money for Garnishment?
The garnishee has 14 days after the Writ is served to let you, the court, and the defendant know if any money is available for garnishment. This information will be provided on form MC 14, Garnishee Disclosure. If you are trying to garnish wages, you will only receive part of the wages based on a federal formula.
If any money is available, it will be withheld from the Defendant right away. However, this money will be held for 28 days. If the garnishment is for periodic payments, money will continue to be sent to you as payments become due to the Defendant until the writ expires.
What Else Can I Do?
If your case against the Defendant involved a traffic accident, you can ask the Court for an abstract of judgment which suspends the Defendant's Michigan driver license until s/he pays the judgment. You must wait 30 days after the judgment date before you can get an abstract of judgment. You need to provide the defendant's full name, date of birth, and Michigan driver license number. There is no filing fee. The forms can be purchased at the Court for $1.00 per page.
THIS INFORMATION ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN ONLY THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE COLLECTING YOUR JUDGMENT. IT IS NOT A COMPLETE STATEMENT OF THE LAW. CLERKS OF THE COURT WILL BE HAPPY TO ASSIST YOU IN THE PROCESSING OF YOUR CLAIM, BUT THEY ARE NOT ATTORNEYS AND CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS, YOU MAY WISH TO CONSULT AN ATTORNEY, OR HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENT YOU.