1. TYPES OF ACTIONS THAT MAY BE BROUGHT IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT
Money Actions: As of July 1, 2011, the small claims limit has been raised from $5000 to $10,000, except for those cases involving personal injury, tort, or third-party claims.
Eviction Actions: To recover control of real property.
Replevin Actions: To recover control of personal property.
2. STARTING AN ACTION
An action is started by completing a Small Claims Summons and Complaint (Form SC-500 or SC-500I) available on the Wisconsin Court System's Website (click here to view all forms). Also available is SC-516 Summons for Consumer Replevin or you can obtain a form from the Clerk of Court’s office. Court staff cannot give you advice about whether your particular case is considered a personal injury, tort, or third-party claim. Please see the Wisconsin Guide to Small Claims and the website of the State Bar of Wisconsin for more information. If legal advice is asked for, the Clerk can only suggest that the person see an attorney or call the Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 1-800-362-9082. Small claims actions are to be filed in the County where the defendant lives or where the cause of action took place. These actions may be commenced for money, replevin, evictions or arbitration awards.
3. COMPLETING THE SMALL CLAIMS SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT FORM
a) The plaintiff’s name and
address must be inserted on the form.
b) The defendant’s name, street and mailing address must be inserted in order to serve
the papers on the defendant.
Check the box for the type of action and for money actions, the
amount claimed to
d) Write down a full description of your claim. Be as specific as possible.
e) Sign the document and have it notarized. The Clerk of Court can notarize it for you.
4. FILING FEES AND SERVICE COSTS
for filing an action is $94.50. plus the appropriate service fee
listed below. This must be paid when the papers are filed. The
papers must then be served on the defendant in one of three ways:
Regular Mail - A fee of $2.00 for each defendant is paid to the Clerk upon filing.
Certified Mail - A fee of $8.00 for each defendant is paid to the Clerk upon filing.
Personal Service - The papers are sent to the Sheriff in the county where the defendant lives. The Sheriff then personally serves the papers on the defendant. You may check with the Sheriff’s Department regarding their service fees. Most departments require a prepayment. When service is completed, the Sheriff will send you a certificate of service. The certificate must be filed with the Clerk of Court. The filing fee and service costs can be collected as part of the judgment if the plaintiff wins the case.
Service Restrictions - If the defendant lives out of county, there must be personal service. Evictions and Replevin are limited to personal service.
5. RETURN DATES AND APPEARANCES
When the action is filed, the Clerk will insert an “Initial Return Date” on the Summons and Complaint. All small claims Initial Returns are held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month @ 1:30 p.m. in the North Courtroom, 2nd Floor of the Courthouse in Whitehall.
RETURN COURT DATE:
The clerk’s office will notify you of the return date. You must make an appearance at this return date in order for the Court to take action. The purpose of the return date is to determine whether the claim is contested. If the claim is not contested, the Court may grant judgment. If the claim is contested, it shall be referred to mediation; the case will be scheduled and noticed for trial.
The defendant may answer the complaint either by
● Appearing personally in Court on the Initial Return Date, or
● Filing a written answer before the Initial Return Date with the Clerk. A copy of the answer must be sent to the plaintiff. Both the plaintiff and defendant must appear on the Initial Return Date, even if the defendant has filed a written answer and sent a copy to the plaintiff.
IF PLAINTIFF APPEARS BUT DEFENDANT DOES NOT: The Court will enter judgment against the defendant. Effective March 15, 2005 an Affidavit of Non-military service will be required for all default judgments. To be fully effective, the judgment should be “docketed” for which a fee of $5.00 must be paid to the Clerk of Court.
IF DEFENDANT APPEARS BUT PLAINTIFF DOES NOT: At the request of the defendant, the Court will dismiss the complaint.
6. TRIALS If the case is set for a trial, both parties will receive a notice of the Trial Date from the court.
7. FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES BY THE JUDGEMENT DEBTOR:
When a judgment is granted for money, the Clerk will send a “Notice of Entry of Judgment” to the parties. The losing party (the “debtor”) is also sent an Order of the Court requiring the losing party to send to the winning party (the “creditor”) a disclosure of their income and assets called an Order of Financial Disclosure and Financial Disclosure of Assets. The losing party must complete the form and send it to the winning party (not to the Clerk of Court) within 15 business days, unless the losing party pays the judgment in full before that time. If the Financial Disclosure of Assets form is not completed and sent to the winning party, the creditor can ask the court for a hearing to hold the losing party in Contempt of Court for failing to follow the court order. The Clerk has forms for such a request, called a Petition and Order for Hearing on Contempt (SC-507). If the Court finds the debtor in contempt, the debtor can be ordered jailed for up to six months and ordered to pay an additional $2000.00 per day for each day of disobedience. The only way the debtor can avoid the sanctions is to pay the judgment in full or complete the financial disclosure.
8. SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT.
After the Judgment is fulfilled, the creditor should issue a “Satisfaction of Judgment”. This document should be filed with the Clerk of Court in the county/counties where the judgment is on the record, along with the required fee. This document enables the Clerk’s office to clear the judgment and notice it for public.