What is a Small Claim?
An action against a person or business where the amount in controversy is less than $15,000.
*If no order has been entered on the case in the past five (5) years the case is subject to administrative dismissal.*
Who Can You File a Claim Against?
Persons and corporations.
- If Defendant is a person, the claim must be filed in the county where the individual lives.
- If Defendant is a corporation, the claim must be filed in the county where the registered agent has designated as its office. Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State at 404-656-2817 to find out whether a business is a corporation and, if so, the name and address of its registered agent. You may wish to also search on the website of the Secretary of State at https://ecorp.sos.ga.gov/BusinessSearch. If the defendant is an unincorporated business, the claim must be filed in the county where the business is physically located. When suing a business that operates as a partnership, the suit may be filed in the county which at least one of the business owners resides.
How Do I File a Claim?
Plaintiff must file a statement of claim, or a claim, with the Clerk of Magistrate Court, describing the charges made against the defendant. The statement of claim should include the following:
- The complete name, address and phone number of the plaintiff (and if the plaintiff is represented by counsel, the name of the attorney).
- The complete name and street address of the defendant.
- The damages, or the amount of money or property the plaintiff is seeking.
- A brief statement explaining why the defendant is being sued, including the date(s) of the underlying incident(s).
- Copies of any relevant documents, such as contracts, receipts and canceled checks.
You can file your case by filing a Statement of Claim with the Clerk of Magistrate Court. A free multi-page NCR Statement of Claim form is available at the Magistrate Court Clerk’s Office. The Court’s form will suffice in most cases and it makes processing more efficient and ensures that copies are available for service.
If you prefer to use your own document, please make sure to provide enough copies to the clerk for service. You have to provide facts on which your claim is based.
Note: You do not need to provide details of the evidence that you will present at the trial, but you have to provide enough information so that defendants reading it will be able to know what the case against them is about. Please attach copies of supporting documents to the Statement of Claim.
Online Dispute Resolution Program
DeKalb County Magistrate Court provides Online Dispute Resolution to you as a free, easy, and convenient service to resolve a dispute from your computer or mobile device. In addition to promoting safe interactions, Online Dispute Resolution saves parties time and money required to appear in court.
What is mediation?
Mediation allows parties to come to an agreement, or settlement, of their issues in an informal and non-adversarial process (unlike a court hearing). The goal of mediation is a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement between disputing parties.
The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives. Mediators do not act as an advocate or attorney or give any legal advice.
How will ODR work?
ODR will work the same as if you were mediating in the courtroom. For example: everything said between the parties will be confidential (with a few exceptions); you can discuss your concerns with the mediator privately; and you can discuss issues about the claim directly with the other party. State-certified student mediators from John Marshal Law School will be assisting the parties to negotiate an agreement.
If the Defendant, the person being sued, files an answer in a small claims case, both parties will receive an order notifying them they are required to attempt ODR. The notice will provide instructions on how to register for mediation.
You do need an email address in order to participate in the program. You can obtain a free email address by registering at any one of these websites (or other free email account services):
You also need access to the Internet, whether it be phone, computer, or tablet.
Any agreement, or settlement, reached between the parties is a binding document, which means that either party can enforce the agreement through the courts. Although the parties are required to mediate, they are not required to reach an agreement. If the parties do not settle their case through ODR, the case will be placed on a trial calendar.
Who participates in ODR?
The parties listed in the lawsuit.
What if I need an interpreter?
You should contact the ODR Clerk immediately to request an interpreter. Your case will be handled outside the ODR platform to ensure appropriate language access.
Do I need an attorney for ODR?
No, but you can hire an attorney if you would like representation for your case.
What if I have an attorney?
You and your attorney have the three options on how to proceed with ODR:
Indirect attorney involvement: You can login to ODR and proceed with the mediation. You and your attorney may confer outside of the ODR platform about proposed terms of settlement and the agreement; OR
Direct attorney involvement: You can login to ODR, list your attorney’s information in the introduction to the mediator, and provide your attorney with the login information. Your attorney will be able to interact directly with the mediator and the opposing party through your login; OR
Mediation outside of ODR: You and your attorney can contact the ODR Clerk to request that your case be assigned to a mediator outside of the ODR platform. Due to the current backlog of cases and safety protocols, this process may be delayed.
Do I have to come to an agreement?
No, you can reject any offer of settlement from the other party if you do not like the terms. Any decisions made during mediation rests with the parties. If you do not come to an agreement, a court hearing in front of a judge will be scheduled later.
What happens if we reach agreement?
If an agreement is reached, both parties will be given an opportunity to review and then electronically sign the agreement. The signed agreement is then filed with the court. The signed agreement is not confidential, becomes part of the public court record, and is legally enforceable. The parties do not have to attend court after reaching an agreement.
What happens if someone violates the agreement?
Consequences and enforcement language are included in the agreement. The agreement will dictate what happens if parties violate the agreement. If that happens, the party who wants to enforce the agreement can file paperwork claiming the other party didn’t keep its end of the agreement.