Individuals and companies can bring their small claims disputes to an Indiana court for a judicial decision and a legally binding judgment. According to the Nolo legal website, small claims cases in Indiana are heard in the Small Claims Docket in Circuit Court, Superior Court and County Court, or in Marion County Small Claims Court. State law governs the process, which does not require the presence of attorneys for either plaintiffs or defendants.
Indiana limits small claims cases to disputes of $6,000 or less. The claim can involve personal injury, tenant/landlord disputes, property damage, or money owed for services or debts. As the plaintiff, you must bring the claim within the statute of limitations. Indiana sets this deadline at two years for personal injury claims and property damage, six years for contracts and rent disputes, and six years for the recovery of personal property. Once the statute runs out, the defendant has grounds for a dismissal of the case by the court.
Notice of Claim
As the plaintiff, you get a small claims case rolling by completing a Notice of Claim, which sets out your case and the amount of your claim, and giving the full name, address and phone number of the defendant. A corporation or individual must be named precisely--a word or letter out of place will invalidate the case. State law requires that you attach a copy of any written contract in dispute, as well as an Affidavit of Debt if you're claiming the defendant owes you money on account.
Hearing Dates and Counterclaims
The court sets a hearing date, after which the Notice of Claim is served on the defendant. The court can mail out the notice, or you can turn it over to a sheriff or private process server. By law, notice of the suit must be served at least 10 days before the hearing. A defendant has the right to request a trial by jury or file a counterclaim, which has to be delivered to a plaintiff no later than seven days before the hearing. Defendants can also name third-party defendants to the case if they believe another party should be held responsible for the claim or the debt.
Evidence and Witnesses
Both parties to a small claims case can bring witnesses to testify on their behalf. They can also ask questions of the other party. They may present evidence, which must be submitted to the judge as well as the defendant before it can be allowed for consideration. Plaintiffs must prove liability on the part of the defendant, as well as the amount of damages claimed. Without evidence or testimony in support of the claim, the court will deny it or accept a defendant's motion to dismiss the case.
Judgments and Collections
If the court concurs with your claims of liability and damages, it will issue a judgment in your favor. Either party in the case has 30 days to appeal the decision. A winning plaintiff can then demand payment from the defendant. If the debtor fails to meet this obligation, a plaintiff can enforce the decision by garnishing wages, filing liens against property or levying bank accounts. The court is not responsible for collecting the judgment.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.