Ashland (OH) Municipal Court

1209 East Main Street, P.O. Box 385, Ashland, OH 44805

Phone: (419) 289-8137 • Fax: (419) 289-8545

 

Small Claims Division Hours
Monday - Friday
8:00AM - 4:30PM

Small Claims Administrator
Nicholas Brand
(419) 281-4890, Ext. 1228
nbrand@ashlandmunicourt.com

Fax: (419) 289-8545

Small Claims Division

DISCLAIMER: The following is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give legal advice, nor is it intended to be an exhaustive list of all legal and procedural matters and requirements for the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court. Court employees cannot give you legal advice. If you have any legal questions about the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court, then you should contact an attorney.

If you need help finding legal assistance or legal information, please contact the following organizations:

  • Ashland County Bar Association (external link): The Ashland County Bar Association's website lists all attorneys that are currently members of the Ashland County Bar Association, including office contact information and areas of practice.

  • Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (external link), (888) 534-1432: Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) provides legal assistance in civil matters (i.e., matters involving housing; rights of spouses, parents, and children; healthcare and wills; Social Security and public benefits; bankruptcy and fair debt collection; and wages and benefits) to eligible low-income individuals and groups in Ashland County, Ohio.

  • Ashland County Law Library (external link), (419) 282-4219: The Ashland County Law Library provides legal reference services and information to the general public.


Ohio law requires that each county and municipal court establish a small claims division, and the Ashland Municipal Court has established such a division in accordance with Ohio law. The purpose of the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court is to resolve minor disputes fairly, quickly, and inexpensively. The procedures in small claims cases are simpler and more informal than those involved in other civil cases.

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1925 and Rule 22 of the Local Rules of Court contain details about filing and appearing in small claims cases. You should read these rules and statutes prior to filing or appearing in a small claims case in the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court. You must comply with Ohio law and the Local Rules of Court in all small claims proceedings.

Types of Cases Heard

The Small Claims Court can resolve many common disputes that involve modest amounts of money, such as claims by tenants to recover security deposits, claims by landlords for unpaid rent or damage to property, claims by buyers for damages from defective merchandise, claims by business owners for unpaid bills, claims by car owners for damages substained in minor car crashes, and claims by employees for unpaid wages. However, please note the following limitations on claims that can be resolved in the Small Claims Court:

  • Your claims must be for money only. The Small Claims Court cannot issue restraining orders, protection orders, or injunctions. The Small Claims Court cannot grant divorces or dissolutions, and it cannot order someone to return your property to you.

  • Your claim cannot exceed $6,000 (not including any interest and filing fees). Your claim can be for at most $6,000, and counterclaims or crossclaims that may be filed by other parties can only be for $6,000 each or less.

  • Your claim cannot be based in libel, slander, or malicious prosecution.

  • Your claim cannot be based on the recovery of punitive or exemplary damages.

  • Your claim cannot be brought by an assignee or agent, such as a lawsuit filed by an insurance company on your behalf as a policy holder.

If your case initially satisfies the above criteria but then it eventually does not (i.e., your case starts with a claim for $6,000 or less but then comes to include claims that exceed $6,000), or if you or one of the other parties requests it, then your small claims case may be transferred from the Small Claims Division to the Civil Division of the Ashland Municipal Court or to the Ashland County Common Pleas Court.

Jurisdiction

In order to proceed with a small claims case in the Small Claims Court, the Small Claims Court must have jurisdiction over your case. The Small Claims Court has jurisdiction over your case if either of the following apply:

  • The transaction, incident, or property upon which your claim is based took place in or is located in Ashland County, Ohio; and/or

  • The defendant (i.e., the person or entity that you are suing), or any one defendant if you are suing multiple defendants, lives or has his/her/its principal place of business in Ashland County, Ohio.

Based on the preceeding factors, the Small Claims Court may share jurisdiction with another court. For example, suppose you were involved in a car crash in Ashland County, Ohio. You believe that the driver of the other vehicle involved in the car crash was at fault; that he is responsible for causing $1,000 in damage to your vehicle; and that he lives in Toledo (Lucas County), Ohio. In this example, you could choose to file your small claims case in the Small Claims Court in either Ashland, Ohio or in Toledo, Ohio.

People and Entities That Can Sue and Be Sued

Generally, if you are over 18 years of age, then you can sue and be sued in the Small Claims Court. If you are a minor under the age of 18, then you may file a small claims case through a parent or guardian.

If you are the owner of a sole proprietorship, or if you conduct business under a trade name (i.e., "doing business as"), you may sue and be sued in the Small Claims Court. Additionally, corporations, certain partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs) may sue and be sued in the Small Claims Court. If you are an officer or an employee of a corporation, partnership, or LLC and you are involved in a case in the Small Claims Court on your organization's behalf, then you should seek the advice of an attorney before you file any documents with the Court. You may present evidence concerning your side in the dispute, but you may not engage in advocacy, such as questioning of witnesses in Court or the presentation of arguments. If you advocate in court on behalf of your organization, then you may violate rules about the unauthorized practice of law, even if all that you do is fill out forms and file documents. To avoid such a violation, contact an attorney to find out what you may and may not do on your organization's behalf. Please note that court staff cannot advise you on this issue.

If you intend to file a small claims case against a business, you must determine whether it is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or an LLC. The Ohio Secretary of State's office will be able to assist you in finding this information. Please call (614) 466-2655 or visit the Ohio Secretary of State's website. Please note that Ohio Secretary of State's office is a state office, and that it is completely separate from the Ashland Municipal Court; court staff are unable to provide you with this information.

How to File a Claim

Prior to involving the Court in your legal matter, it is recommended that you make a final effort to settle your dispute by sending the potential defendant(s) a letter by certified mail (return receipt requested) or by certificate of mailing. This letter is commonly referred to as a "demand letter". The style and form of your letter is entirely up to you; however, at a minimum, your letter should summarize the basic facts of your dispute, including the amount of money you would like to recover.

If you do not receive a reply to your letter from the defendant(s), or if you receive a reply and your negotiations with the defendant(s) fail to resolve your dispute, then you may complete and file a "Complaint" form with the Court. You may obtain a copy of the Complaint form from the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court, or you may download a copy from the "Resources" page on the Court's website. Please fill out this form completely. If your Complaint is handwritten, then please write legibly in blue or black ink. You are the plaintiff(s); the person or people that you are suing are the defendant(s). When filing your Complaint, you must attach to your Complaint complete copies of contracts, invoices, receipts, accounts, IOUs, bills, memos, notes, letters, postal return receipts, unclaimed letter notices, or any other documents that support your claim. If your case involves a motor vehicle crash, you must also provide two (2) estimates of damage, a police report (if any), the name of any insurance companies involved, the amount of your insurance deductible, and a statement of any payments received from any insurance company for damage or injury from the crash. If you fail to fill out the Complaint form completely, if you write illegibly, or if you fail to provide copies of any necessary accompanying documents, then your Complaint will be rejected by the Court and it will not be filed.

Please pay special attention to the following:

  • Address(es) for the defendant(s). The Court must notify each defendant that he or she is being sued; it is your responsibility to provide an address where each defendant can be reached. Your Complaint, along with any accompanying documents and a summons to appear in court at a specific date and time, must be "served upon" each defendant. Typically, service of these documents is accomplished by certified mail, electronic return receipt requested, sent from the Court to the defendant's home, work, or business address. The electronic return receipt, signed by anyone 16 years of age or older, will provide proof of service, at which point your case may proceed.

  • The amount of your claim. When you state the amount of your claim, consider whether you want to collect interest on any judgment. If you had an agreement with the defendant(s) allowing for the collection of interest from a certain date and at a certain rate, then please check the box on the Complaint next to "the date of" and provide the date and interest rate. If you did not have an agreement with the defendant(s) allowing for the collection of interest from a certain date and at a certain rate, then you may collect post-judgment interest at the current annual statutory interest rate provided by the Ohio Department of Taxation; this interest rate is currently (for judgments entered in 2017) 4%. If you would like to collect post-judgment interest at the current statutory rate, then please check the box on the Complaint next to "the first day of judgment" along with the current statutory interest rate. Additionally, please note that Ohio law does not permit you to recover wages for time lost for preparing or filing your case or for appearing in court.

  • Active military duty of the defendant(s). Prior to filing your Complaint, you should determine whether the defendant(s) is/are on active military duty. Federal law provides some protection for those who are on active duty.

  • Your signature. If you intend to mail your Complaint to the Court, then you must have the Complaint notarized (a notary must witness your signature) prior to mailing. If you intend to file your Complaint in person at the Court, then you may swear to the information contained in your Complaint (a court clerk must witness your signature). Do not sign your Complaint without having your signature witnessed by a notary or a court clerk.

  • Court costs. There is a $50.00 fee to file a Complaint (including one defendant); there is a $20.00 filing fee for each additional defendant (e.g., a Complaint against two defendants would be a $70.00 total filing fee; a Complaint against three defendants would be a $90.00 total filing fee). This filing fee is due at the time that you file your Complaint. If you intend to mail your Complaint to the Court, then you must include a check or money order (made payable to the "Ashland Municipal Court") for the correct filing fee along with your Complaint and all other necessary documents. If you intend to file your Complaint in person at the Court, then you may pay the appropriate filing fee by cash, check, or money order. Please note that the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court does not accept credit card payments for filing fees. If you fail to provide the appropriate filing fee for your Complaint, then it will be rejected by the Court and it will not be filed with the Court.

Once the Court has received your Complaint, any necessary accompanying documents, and the appropriate filing fee, a court clerk will timestamp and file your documents, process your filing fee, and mail copies of your Complaint, all necessary accompanying documents, a summons, and a Memorandum and Notice of Court Dates to the defendant(s) by certified mail; you will also receive copies of all of these documents by ordinary mail. The summons and the Memorandum and Notice of Court Dates will tell you the date and time that you will need to appear in Court. This date and time should be no sooner than 15 days after the filing date and no later than 40 days after the filing date.

Additionally, these documents will contain your case number. All of your communications about your small claims case must include the case number that appears on the documents that you received from the Court. All small claims case numbers contain ten characters, starting with the last two digits of the year in which your case was originally filed, followed by "CVI", and then followed by a five digit number with up to four "0" placeholders (e.g., 09CVI00001, 12CVI00123, or 16CVI01234). If your communications do not include your case number, then the Court may not be able to effectively assist you.

If your initial Complaint is incorrect or incomplete (e.g., you provided the wrong address for the defendant, or you forgot to include someone as a defendant), then you may "amend" (i.e., formally correct or modify) your initial Complaint by completing and filing an "Amended Complaint" form with the Court. Other than the inclusion of the term "AMENDED" at the top of the form, the Amended Complaint form is identical to the form you used to file your initial Complaint; the requirements (except filing fee, see below, and the inclusion of your case number, see above) for filing an Amended Complaint are the same as those for filing an initial Complaint (e.g., the form must be notarized or your signature witness by a court clerk, etc.). Please fill out the Amended Complaint form completely as instructed. If your form is handwritten, then please write legibly in blue or black ink. If you fail to fill out the form completely or if you write illegibly, then your form will be rejected by the Court and your Amended Complaint will not be filed. You may obtain a copy of the Amended Complaint form from the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court, or you may download a copy from the Resources page on the Court's website.

There is a $40.00 fee to file an Amended Complaint (including one defendant); there is a $20.00 filing fee for each additional defendant (e.g., an Amended Complaint against two defendants would be a $60.00 total filing fee; an Amended Complaint against three defendants would be an $80.00 total filing fee). This filing fee is due at the time that you file your Amended Complaint with the Court. If you intend to mail your Amended Complaint to the Court, then you must include a check or money order (made payable to the "Ashland Municipal Court") for the correct filing fee along with all other necessary documents. If you intend to file your documents in person at the Court, then you may pay the appropriate filing fee by cash, check, or money order. Please note that the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court does not accept credit card payments for filing fees. If you fail to provide the appropriate filing fee for your Amended Complaint, then it will be rejected by the Court and it will not be filed with the Court.

Once the Court has received your Amended Complaint, any necessary accompanying documents, and the appropriate filing fee, a court clerk will timestamp and file your documents, process your filing fee, and mail copies of your documents to the defendant(s) by certified mail; you will also receive copies of all of these documents by ordinary mail. These documents may contain a rescheduled date for your next hearing; please read them carefully.

What to Do If Someone Has Filed a Complaint Against You

If someone has filed a Complaint against you, you will receive a copy of the Complaint, any necessary accompanying documents, a summons, and a Memorandum and Notice of Court dates from the Court. These documents will give you important information, such as the name and address of the plaintiff(s) or the plaintiff'(s)' attorney, the basis and amount of the claim, the location of the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court, and the date and time that you must appear in Court to resolve the claim. You are not required to file an answer (i.e., a written response to the Complaint); instead, you must appear at the Court at the date and time provided in the documents that you received.

Depending on what you believe about the claims made against you, you have the following general options:

  • If you believe that the plaintiff's claim is fair, then you may the plaintiff the full amount of the claim, plus filing fees, and that should be the end of the matter.

  • If you believe that part of the plaintiff's claim is fair, or if you believe that the plaintiff's claim is completely unfair, then you must appear at the date and time provided in the documents that you received from the Court. You will be able to address the fairness of the plaintiff's claims in Court in front of the magistrate.

  • If you believe that the plaintiff actually owes you money, then you may file a "counterclaim" of your own against the plaintiff.

  • If the plaintiff has named multiple defendants and you have a claim against one of those defendants, then you may file a "crossclaim" against that defendant.

  • If the plaintiff's claim does not include some parties that are necessary to resolve the dispute, then you may add those necessary parties to the case by filing a "third party complaint" against them.

You may obtain a copy of the "Counterclaim", "Crossclaim", and "Third Party Complaint" forms from the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court, or you may download a copy of these forms from the "Resources" page on the Court's website. Please fill out the Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint form completely. If your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint is handwritten, then please write legibly in blue or black ink. When filing your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint with the Court, you must attach complete copies of contracts, invoices, receipts, accounts, IOUs, bills, memos, notes, letters, postal return receipts, unclaimed letter notices, or any other documents that support your claim. If your case involves a motor vehicle crash, you must also provide two (2) estimates of damage, a police report (if any), the name of any insurance companies involved, the amount of your insurance deductible, and a statement of any payments received from any insurance company for damage or injury from the crash. If you fail to fill out the form completely, if you write illegibly, or if you fail to provide copies of any necessary accompanying documents, then your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint will be rejected by the Court and it will not be filed with the Court.

Please pay special attention to the following when filing your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint:

  • Your case number. All of your communications about your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint must include the case number that appears on the documents that you received from the Court. All small claims case numbers contain ten characters, starting with the last two digits of the year in which the case was originally filed by the plaintiff, followed by "CVI", and then followed by a five digit number with up to four "0" placeholders (e.g., 09CVI00001, 12CVI00123, or 16CVI01234). If your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint does not include your case number, then the Court may not be able to properly file your documents or the case may be delayed.

  • Your claims. You must be able to explain why you believe each claim is justified and you must be prepared to present evidence in support of your claim.

  • The amount of your claim. When you state the amount of your claim, consider whether you want to collect interest on any judgment. If you had an agreement with the defendant(s) allowing for the collection of interest from a certain date and at a certain rate, then please check the box on the Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint next to "the date of" and provide the date and interest rate. If you did not have an agreement with the defendant(s) allowing for the collection of interest from a certain date and at a certain rate, then you may collect post-judgment interest at the current annual statutory interest rate provided by the Ohio Department of Taxation; this interest rate is 3% in 2016 and 4% starting in 2017). If you would like to collect post-judgment interest at the current statutory rate, then please check the box on the Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint next to "the first day of judgment" along with the current statutory interest rate. Additionally, please note that Ohio law does not permit you to recover wages for time lost for preparing or filing your claim or for appearing in court.

  • Third parties. If you believe that an additional party or parties should be brought in the claim because they are liable for all or part of the claim - either along with you or instead of you - you need to file a Third Party Complaint. You will have to provide a name and address for each additional party that you would like to add (see "People and Entities That Can Sue and Be Sued" above), as well as your reasons why each party should be brought into the case.

  • Deadlines for filing. Your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint must be filed with the Court at least seven days prior to the date of a scheduled trial on the plaintiff's original claim. For example, if you have a small claims trial scheduled for Monday, October 31, then your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint must be received by the Court by Friday, October 21.

  • Your signature. If you intend to mail your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint to the Court, then you must have the document notarized (a notary must witness your signature) prior to mailing. If you intend to file your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint in person at the Court, then you may swear to the information contained in your document (a court clerk must witness your signature). Do not sign your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint without having your signature witnessed by a notary or a court clerk.

  • Court costs. There is a $30.00 fee to file a Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint (including one party to be served); there is a $20.00 filing fee for each additional person that needs to be served (e.g., a Counterclaim against two plaintiffs would be a $50.00 total filing fee; a Crossclaim against three co-defendants would be a $70.00 total filing fee). This filing fee is due at the time that you file your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint. If you intend to mail your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint to the Court, then you must include a check or money order (made payable to the "Ashland Municipal Court") for the correct filing fee along with your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint and all other necessary documents. If you intend to file your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint in person at the Court, then you may pay the appropriate filing fee by cash, check, or money order. Please note that the Small Claims Division of the Ashland Municipal Court does not accept credit card payments for filing fees. If you fail to provide the appropriate filing fee for your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint, then it will be rejected by the Court and it will not be filed with the Court.

Once the Court has received your Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third Party Complaint, any necessary accompanying documents, and the appropriate filing fee, a court clerk will timestamp and file your documents, process your filing fee, and mail copies of your documents to the defendant(s) by certified mail; you will also receive copies of all of these documents by ordinary mail. These documents may contain a rescheduled date for your next hearing; please read them carefully.

Conciliation/Pretrial Hearing, Small Claims Trial, and Judgment

The first scheduled hearing you will have in the Court is a conciliation/pretrial hearing. At this hearing, you and the other parties will participate in a magistrate-supervised settlement conference, where you will attempt to resolve your dispute with the other parties. It is not necessary for you to present witnesses or evidence at the conciliation/pretrial hearing; however, copies of contracts, invoices, receipts, accounts, IOUs, bills, memos, notes, letters, postal return receipts, unclaimed letter notices, and any other documents or items that support your claim may help give the magistrate and the other parties a better understanding of your claim.

If the small claims case remains unresolved following the conciliation/pretrial hearing, then it will be scheduled for a small claims trial before the magistrate. It is your responsibility at trial to give the magistrate the facts and to convince the magistrate that he should decide in your favor. Prior to the trial, you will want to collect your evidence and contact your witnesses. Your evidence may include:

  • Your testimony.

  • Witness testimony. If a witness will not testify voluntarily, you may ask the Court to order the witness to testify by subpoena. There is a $50.00 fee for each subpoena prepared and served by the Court. If you require the Court's assistance in preparing and serving a subpoena, then you should notify the Court at least seven days prior to the trial at which the witness is expected to testify.

  • Documents, such as contracts, invoices, receipts, accounts, IOUs, bills, memos, notes, letters, postal return receipts, unclaimed letter notices, etc.

  • Photographs, drawings, or diagrams, such as those evidencing damage done to a car following a crash.

  • Any other physical item relevant to proving your case.

Bring your evidence and voluntary witnesses with you to the Court on the day of the small claims trial. Your witnesses must appear in person; the Court will not accept written statements from witnesses and the Court does not allow witnesses to appear by telephone. Additionally, please bring with you enough copies of any documents, photographs, drawings, or diagrams, for all other parties and for the Court.

Your case will likely be one of many scheduled on that particular day. Please wait patiently in the lobby; a court bailiff will announce your name in the lobby once the Court is ready to hear your case. When talking about your case in Court, you should be brief and you should stick to the facts. The magistrate may occasionally interrupt you with questions; please answer the magistrate's questions directly and to the best of your knowledge. Perhaps most importantly, you should be polite to the magistrate, court staff, all witnesses, and any opposing parties, and, although you will surely be arguing passionately, do not let your temper get the best of you. Good manners, a calm attitude, and an orderly presentation of your case will promote a fair and efficient hearing and will make a positive impression with all involved.

After hearing from all of the parties involved and following the conclusion of the trial, the magistrate will issue a written decision. You will receive a copy of the Magistrate's Decision by ordinary mail at the address that the Court has on file. In addition to the Magistrate's Decision, you will receive a copy of a Judgment Order issued by the judge that adopts the Magistrate's Decision. If you disagree with the Magistrate's Decision, you may complete and file an "Objections to the Magistrate's Decision" form with the Court. Your Objections to the Magistrate's Decision must be filed with the Court within 14 days of the filing of the Magistrate's Decision. You must send a copy of your Objections to the Magistrate's Decision to all opposing parties. If you file Objections to the Magistrate's Decision, then all other parties will have 10 days from the filing of your objections to file written responses to your objections.

Please note that most Magistrate's Decisions are "general" decisions. If you want to know the specific facts and law that the magistrate relied upon in making his decision, then you must request "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" within 7 days of the filing of the Magistrate’s Decision. This information can be helpful when drafting your Objections to the Magistrate's Decision or when appealing your case. Unfortunately, the Court does not currently have forms available for requesting Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. If you would like to request Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, then you must consult with an attorney.

The timely filing of Objections to the Magistrate's Decision will stay the Judgment Order issued by the judge. If a party files Objections to the Magistrate's Decision, then the judge will carefully review the Magistrate's Decision, any written objections, and any written responses to those objections before issuing a final Judgment Order in your case. This final Judgment Order may completely adopt the Magistrate's Decision or it may modify the Magistrate's Decision. You may appeal this final Judgment Order to the Court of Appeals. Due to the complicated procedures and strict time constraints involved in filing an appeal, you will require the assistance of an attorney in order to appeal your case to the Court of Appeals. Please refer to the "Notice Regarding Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, Objections to the Magistrate's Decision, and Appeals" that you received with the Magistrate's Decision and Judgment Order for additional instructions. The Court cannot assist you in this regard.

Consequences of Failure to Appear

If you are the plaintiff and you fail to appear at either the conciliation/pretrial hearing or at the trial, then your case may be dismissed, and, if the defendant filed a counterclaim against you, judgment may be entered against you by default. If you are the defendant and you fail to appear at either the conciliation/pretrial hearing or at the trial, then judgment may be entered against you by default, and, if you filed a counterclaim, crossclaim, or third party Complaint, it may be dismissed.

If you cannot attend the conciliation/pretrial hearing or the trial on the originally scheduled date at the originally scheduled time, you must contact the Court immediately. Similarly, if you will be late for a hearing/trial but still intend to appear, you must contact the Court immediately.

Collecting on a Judgment

For additional information on how to collect money from a small claims judgment, please refer to the "Collecting on a Judgment" page.

 

The information provided on this "Small Claims Division" website was adapted from "Small Claims Court: A Citizens Guide", 9th Edition, a pamphlet published by the Ohio Judicial Conference in cooperation with the Ohio State Bar Foundation.