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Small Claims

HEARD: Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. 

WHERE: Walworth County Judicial Center, 1800 County Trunk NN, Room 2055, Elkhorn WI

If you have a disability and need assistance, please call (262) 741-7012.

Small Claims Handbook

Small Claims Self Help Site

  1. How do I file a small claims action?
    What is it you are suing for?  Small claims can be used for the following:

       a. Eviction actions, regardless of the amount claims.
       b.  Replevin actions (return of property) where the value of the property claimed does not exceed $10,000.
       c.  Other civil actions where the amount claimed is $10,000 or less (such as unreturned security deposits, unpaid bills, loans and damage to property).
       d. Garnishments to enforce judgments from funds owed to the debtor when the amount owed is $10,000 or less.
      e.
    Actions for the return of earnest money tendered pursuant to a contract for purchase of real property, regardless of the amount claimed. 
      f. The small claims limit remains at $5,000 for personal injury, tort and third-party complaints.
  2. Where do I get forms to file a Small Claims Action?
    Small Claims Summons and Complaint forms are available in our office, Room 2080.
  3. What information must I have to file a Small Claims Action?  What happens on the day I come in to start my case?
    You must have the following to fill out the Summons and Complaint;

       a.  The plaintiff's correct name, address, phone.  The defendant's correct name and address.  It is most important that the correct legal name of the party be set forth in the complaint.  If the papers cannot be delivered to the defendant, you may have to start the action over and pay additional fees.  A party to a civil suit must fall into one of three classes; an individual or an individual doing business under an assumed name, a partnership, two or more individuals doing business together or a corporation. 
       b.  The nature and amount of the plaintiff's claim including dates and other relevant information in the complaint.  If the claim is based on a written instrument or contract, a copy should be attached.  (Be sure to provide a sufficient number of copies to attach to the original and all copies.)
    After you fill out the Summons & Complaint, sign and date the Complaint in front of a Notary Public.  (There are notaries available at the Clerk of Courts office).  File the forms and any attachments with the Clerk of Courts, Room 2080 of the Judicial Center.  A court date and a case number will be assigned by the clerk.  You must pay a filing fee of $94.50 at the time of filing.  You will then be responsible for seeing that the papers are properly served, paying any service fees, and filing proof of service with the court.
  4. How do I obtain service on a Small claims Summons & Complaint? 
    All Summons and Complaints must be personally served on each named defendant.  After filing the Summons and Complaint, it is the plaintiff's responsibility to arrange for personal service, pay the service fees, and file the Proof of Service prior to or on the court date.  See the Walworth County Sheriff's Office page for further information regarding their civil process procedures and fees.  If the defendant lives outside of Walworth County, the plaintiff is responsible for getting the papers to the Sheriff in the county where the defendant resides and pay their service fees.  Plaintiff may also employ the services of a private process server; costs vary.
  5. How far in advance of my court date must the defendant be served?
    Personal service must be completed at least eight (8) days prior to the return date, excluding weekends and holidays.  Eviction actions must be served at least five (5) days prior to the return date, excluding weekends and holidays.
  6. What happens if the defendant cannot be personally served?
    If, after reasonable diligence, the defendant cannot be served by personal service or substitute service, then service may be completed by mailing and publication [see 801.11(c) and 985.02(1)].  A legal publication shall be published for one insertion where the defendant resides or is likely to see the publication. Plaintiff must also mail the Summons to the defendant(s) at the last known address.  In Eviction cases, however, if after reasonable diligence, the defendant cannot be served by personal service or substitute service, then service may be made by posting and mailing [see 799.16(3)(a)].  A copy of the summons and complaint may be affixed to some part of the premises where it may conveniently be read at least seven (7) days prior to the return date, with an additional copy being mailed to the defendant at the last-known address at least five (5) days prior to the return date.
  7. What judge will hear my case?
    All cases will be called before the Clerk of Circuit Court or deputy clerk of court on the return date.
  8. Must I appear for the court date? (Question by defendants)
    Wisconsin Resident: A defendant who resides in the state of Wisconsin is required to appear in person on the return date if they wish to contest the claim.
    Non-resident: A defendant who is a non-resident of the State of Wisconsin must either appear on the scheduled return date or file and serve a written answer at least 72 hours prior to the court date and time [sec. 799.22(4)].  If an answer is properly filed and a request to adjourn said hearing is made by the defendant, the initial appearance will be scheduled for a future date.  A written answer, however, is not in lieu of an appearance. 
  9. What happens if I don't appear on the court date? (Question by plaintiff)
    If the plaintiff fails to appear, the case will be dismissed.
  10. What will happen at court?
    The following are the possibilities: If the defendant appears and denies the claim, the case will be referred for a pre-trial, immediately following the initial appearance, to the court commissioner.  The court commissioner may; dismiss the claim, adopt an agreement between the parties or schedule the matter for a hearing.

    Or Judgment may be entered in favor of the plaintiff if the defendant admits liability. If plaintiff is granted default judgment, an Affidavit of Non-military must be filed.
  11. How do I get a trial before the Circuit Court Judge?
    Either party may file a "Demand for Trial" within 10 days of the oral decision by the court commissioner or within 15 days after a written decision by the court commissioner.  The matter will then be set for trial before the judge or a jury. 
  12. What must be included in the "Demand for Trial" form?
    The party requesting the court or jury trial before the Circuit Court judge, must complete the "Demand for Trial" form for the purpose of defining the issues and estimating the time required to hear the trial.  If a jury trial is demanded, a jury request fee of $89 plus $36-6 person jury fee are to be paid [814.63(3)(e)], [799.2194)]. You must file the demand with the court and send a copy to the other party.  It is best to use certified mail so you have proof that you did so.
  13. I have a tenant I want to evict.  How do I do this?
    Please see sec. 704.14 and sec. 704.21 regarding legal notice to vacate the premises.  After proper notice to vacate has been given the tenant, the landlord may start an eviction action.  PROOF OF SERVICE OF PROPER NOTICE MUST BE FILED upon commencing an action.  The landlord should produce a written lease if one exists.  The tenant should have receipts of cancelled checks if their defense is based on payment. Photographs regarding the condition of the premises may also be helpful.
  14. What is a judgment?
    It is a formal document signed by a judge or Clerk of Circuit Court, stating that the defendant owes you money or the return of property. 
  15. How do I obtain a judgment in small claims?
    If the case is decided in your favor, you will get judgment against the defendant.  If the defendant fails to appear or answer, you will get a default judgment.  Either way you get judgment. 
    Your judgment will include court costs and fees allowed by law; filing fee, service fee, subpoena fees or witnesses, statutory attorney fees based on the amount of damages awarded, interest at 5% from the due date to date of judgment to be computed by the requesting party) and 12% thereafter until the amount is paid. 
  16. How do I enforce a judgment?
    You may docket the judgment or commence a garnishment action. 
 
 
 

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