Small Claims & Arbitration
- Can corporations sue, or be sued, and how do they defend themselves?
No. A Corporation may appear as a claimant, assignee, subrogee or counter - claimant in a small claims proceeding, unless represented by an attorney. When the amount claimed does not exceed $1,500.00, a corporation may defend as defendant any small claims proceeding in any court of this State through any officer, director, manager, department manager or supervisor of the corporation as though such corporation was appearing in its proper person. For the purpose of this rule, the term "officer" means the president, vice-president, registered agent or other person vested with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the corporation. (Supreme Court Rule 282(b), effective August 1, 1987).
- How do you file a Small Claims Complaint?
If you file a Small Claims suit, you are called the plaintiff. If you have been sued in the Small Claims Court, you are called the defendant. In order to begin a Small Claims action, you must file a complaint with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The complaint is a form which explains who you are suing, where the person lives, how much money they owe you and why they owe you the money. The complaint is signed by the plaintiff and the statement is sworn to before a notary public or Clerk of the Court. You must list the defendant's exact name and address. The Clerk is not able to help you find that out.
- How do you respond to a small claims complaint?
If you have been sued in Small Claims, you and/or your attorney must appear on the return date set forth in the summons. The Court will hear the case on the return date or it may set the case for trial at a later date.
- What court date should I set?
When you file your suit, the clerk will provide you with the pre-trial date. If at pre-trial, the claim is contested, the case will be set for trial at a later date. Once a trial date is scheduled it may only be continued by a judge or if it is settled, a dismissal will remove it from the schedule. If the defendant does not appear, it may be that he/she was not served with the complaint and summons.
If this is the case, then you must prepare an Alias Summons and in most cases, it will then be necessary to have the Sheriff serve the Alias Summons. An Alias Summons will cost $5.00. The plaintiff and/or the plaintiff's attorney must always appear on the summons return date, regardless of whether or not service has been made. (Failure to appear may result in the case being dismissed for want of prosecution).
- What do I do before the trial?
Before the trial you should prepare your case so you can make a clear and understandable presentation to the Judge. You should bring any papers, pictures or other physical objects which have something to do with your case and show them to the Judge. To help you organize your thoughts it may be beneficial to write down the facts of the case ahead of your court date. If you have time, observe a small claims court session before the date of your hearing. You may also bring witnesses to testify in support of your case. A witness is someone who can help explain why you should win the case. Make sure that your witness shows up on the exact date and time for the trial. If a witness is necessary for your case and is reluctant to come to court, you may need to have a subpoena issued. (This is a order of the Court commanding a person to appear and testify at a trial.) In order for a subpoena to be legal you must advance the statutory witness fee and mileage to and from the courthouse at the time of service on the witness.
Be sure to remember the exact date and time of your court date and be on time. If you fail to appear for the trial, you may lose the case.
If you need additional information, you can call the Circuit Court Clerk's Small Claims Department at 309-558-3538. If you need legal assistance you can contact the Illinois Lawyer Referral Service at 217-525-5297.
Arbitration cases are filed in the General Division of the Circuit Clerk's Office. Arbitration cases are for money damages only ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Arbitration cases have a specific Summons that must be used, Arbitration Summons (PDF). Arbitration cases must be scheduled at the time of filing and you must schedule them out at least 21 days, but not more than 40 days. Arbitration cases are always set on Fridays. Additional Arbitration information, including FAQs and an overview of the process can be found on the Arbitration Center Home Page.
Disclaimer: Circuit Court Clerk staff are prohibited from providing legal advice.