8th District Court - Civil Division
Small Claims

What is Small Claims?

  • Small Claims Court is for actions involving money damages only. The person filing the small claims action is the plaintiff, and the person being sued is the defendant.
  • A small claims action cannot require someone to do, not do, or cease doing something.
  • Claims of fraud, libel, or slander cannot be granted through small claims.

Considerations and Requirements Involved in Small Claims Actions:

  • When an action is heard as a small claim, both parties voluntarily relinquish the following rights:
    1. The right to be represented by an attorney.
    2. The right to a trial by jury.
    3. The right to recover more than the applicable jurisdictional amount.
    4. The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.
      1. Limited Right of Appeal:
        If the hearing was conducted by a magistrate, an appeal may be taken within 7 days after the entry of judgment and the matter will heard de novo (anew) by a District Court Judge. Further appeal from the decision of the judge shall not be available.
    Although the plaintiff gives up the rights (listed above) by filing the small claims action, the defendant(s) may choose not to give up those rights by filing a demand - before or at the time of the hearing - to have the case transferred to the general civil division of the court at which time both parties will have all of the rights listed above. (Parties may want to consult an attorney when a case is transferred to the general civil division.)
  • To file a small claims action in the 8th District Court, the venue must be within Kalamazoo County. Venue is established by one of the following factors:
    1. The cause of action must have occurred within Kalamazoo County.
    2. The defendant (person being sued) must work within Kalamazoo County.
    3. The defendant must reside within Kalamazoo County.
  • The maximum amount of money damages that can be granted in a small claims action is:
    1. $5,000 Beginning September 1, 2012
    2. $5,500 Beginning January 1, 2015
    3. $6,000 Beginning January 1, 2018
    4. $6,500 Beginning January 1, 2021
    5. $7,000 Beginning January 1, 2024
  • In most automobile accident cases, the limit is the amount not paid by insurance up to a maximum amount of $1,000 beginning October 1, 2012.
  • The plaintiff will need specific information to begin the small claims action: the name and current addresses of parties being sued; a concise statement explaining the reasons for the action; and copies of any documents that support the claim (one copy for the Court and one for each defendant). Court Staff will provide procedural assistance; however, Court Clerks are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice - if you need legal advice contact an attorney.
    For legal advice, you may contact the following:
  • The plaintiff will incur fees to file the small claims action, and to have the defendants served. These fees will most likely be allowed if the judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiff (the Magistrate would add them to the amount of damages claimed). However, other out-of-pocket expenses such as parking, transportation, babysitting costs, or lost income to appear in court, are usually not recoverable.
  • A judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff is no guarantee of payment. If the defendant doesn't voluntarily pay the amount of the judgment, the plaintiff can pursue collection of the judgment through a post-judgment remedy; however, there will be additional forms to complete and fees. The process may also include additional court hearings, if the defendant's employer and/or assets are unknown.


The data contained herein is for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice.