This information has been prepared by the 47th District Court
as a general overview of the Small Claims process. It is not
intended to take the place of professional legal advice.
What is Small Claims?
Small Claims is a dispute resolution option in the district
court for money disputes in the amount of $5,000.00 or less
(increased from $3,000 effective September 1, 2012). The Small
Claims process is designed to expedite the resolution of the
dispute. To proceed under Small Claims rules, the parties must
agree to waive the following rights:
- right to a jury trial
- right to attorney representation
- right to appeal beyond the District Court
For specifics regarding the Small Claims process, please
refer to subchapter 4.300 of the Michigan Court Rules.
Can I collect if I win?
A verdict in your favor does not automatically mean the
defendant will pay the judgment and costs immediately. You may
have to take certain additional steps to obtain your money, and
in some cases, success in collecting may depend on whether the
other party has the money to pay.
Before filing a Small Claims action, you should consider whether
the other party has the money to pay. If not, the effort and
cost to file and proceed may not be worth it.
How do I know in which Court to file?
The proper court in which to file your Small Claims action is
the district court where the other party lives or does business,
or where the incident occurred.
How do you file?
First make sure you are bringing the claim against the proper
party and you have the defendant’s proper name and address.
Having the correct address is vital for the service of the
Complete an “Affidavit & Claim” form (forms are available from
the court clerk at any District Court) and submit it with the
appropriate filing fee to a court clerk at the 47th District
Court’s Civil Division window (or forward to the Court by mail).
If the amount of the claim exceeds $5,000.00, the actual amount
of the claim must be stated on the Affidavit & Claim with
acknowledgment that the plaintiff waives claim to the excess
over $5,000.00. A judgment on the claim is a bar to a later
action in any court to recover the excess.
What does it cost to file?
The cost of filing a Small Claims action varies depending
upon the amount of the claim:
|Amount of Claim
|Claims up to $600
|Claims $601 - $1,750
|Claims $1,751 - $5,000
In addition, the filing party must bear the cost of serving
How can service of summons be arranged?
The defendant must be served with the mall claims affidavit.
Service of the summons can be done by personal service or
certified mail. The following are the fees for both types of
(Certified mail service must be
completed by the Court; prices are per defendant):
To a business $6.00
To an individual $12.00
Service will be made by the Court
approved process server, who will invoice the plaintiff directly
for service. (Note: If an incorrect address is provided, the
plaintiff may be invoiced an additional $10.00 fee by the
process server for attempted service at the incorrect address.)
How will the case proceed?
Upon proper service, the defendant may file an answer to the
complaint within 21 days of service and must appear at the
scheduled hearing. Either party may have the case moved from the
Small Claims calendar to the General Civil calendar.
If, as the defendant, you feel you have a claim against the
person suing you, you may file that “counterclaim” in writing.
The counterclaim may be served by first class mail.
If the filing party (plaintiff) fails to appear for the
scheduled hearing, the case will be dismissed. If after proper
service, the defendant fails to appear for the scheduled
hearing, a default judgment will be entered against the
What if we settle prior to trial?
If the parties reach an agreement before trial, the plaintiff
should notify the Court prior to the hearing date that the case
What will happen at trial?
Prior to trial, the Court encourages the parties to discuss
their differences and reach a mutually satisfying resolution.
The Court may provide the parties with information about
alternative dispute resolution options also.
At the 47th District Court, Small Claims trials are typically
scheduled before an attorney magistrate, however each side has
the right to request that a judge hear the case. If a magistrate
hears the case, either side may file an appeal of the decision
to the district judge within 7 days after the trial. There is no
appeal on a district judge’s decision.
Each side should come prepared with any evidence and/or
witnesses needed to present his/her case. During the trial, each
party has an opportunity to present his/her case and
cross-examine the other party’s presentation. The plaintiff
presents first. The defendant may then cross-examine the
plaintiff and his/her witnesses. Then the process is reversed
with the defendant presenting and the plaintiff cross-examining.
Forms generally used in Small Claims (State Court Administrative
Office form number in parenthesis; forms are available online at
the Michigan Supreme Court website, Court Forms):
- Affidavit & Claim (DC 84)
- Answer - Civil (DC 03)
- Judgment - Small Claims (DC 85)
- Demand & Order for Removal (DC 86)
47th Judicial District Court Judges and Magistrates
|Judge James Brady
||Magistrate Dennis Pheney
|Judge Marla Parker
||Magistrate Carl Christoph
||Magistrate Michael Sawicky
Oakland County Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
For no charge, this professional service will locate an
experienced attorney for you.
Oakland Mediation Center
Mediation is a dispute resolution alternative to filing a court
case. This non-profit Michigan corporation provides community
mediation services to Oakland County residents.