If you cannot resolve a dispute with a business or a person and the amount in controversy is less than $15,000, you may electronically file a case in Magistrate court. You may electronically file in your own name without an attorney or you may hire an attorney at your own expense. The Plaintiff (person filing the suit) must prove to the Judge that he/she is entitled to receive compensation from the Defendant (person being sued).
The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to handle civil claims in the amount of $15,000 or less.
You must file where the Defendant lives. If the Defendant is a corporation, you must file in the county of the registered agent for the company. Contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State to locate the registered agent. If the Defendant is an unincorporated business, the claim must be filed in the county where the business is physically located.
The filing fee is $60 for one defendant and $8 for each additional defendant. Suits may be served by the Marshal's Department for $50 per party or by a private process server (Process Server List). Filing and service fees may be paid when initially e-filing a case at eFileGA.
Procedures for Filing a Statement of Claim
The Plaintiff (the one filing the action) must electronically file a sworn statement with the Clerk of Magistrate Court, describing the charges against the Defendant (the person or business against whom the claim is brought). This Statement of Claim (PDF) provides each party with the reason for the lawsuit. An applicant may appear in person in the office of the Clerk of Magistrate Court at 185 Central Avenue, Suite TG-100, Atlanta, GA 30303 to have the Statement of Claim sworn or affirmed in person with a Clerk or notarized with a signature and seal. The paperwork can be electronically filed at the public access terminals located in suite TG-100 (185 Central Avenue SW, Atlanta, GA 30303.
The statement of claim should include the following:
- The complete name, address and phone number of the plaintiff (and attorney, if he or she has one).
- 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 all relevant documents, such as contracts, receipts and canceled checks. (Keep the original documents for your files.)
The Clerk of the Magistrate Court can provide you with the necessary forms and help with the electronic filing process in Suite TG-100. The Clerk cannot give any legal advice, such as whom to sue or whether or not you will win.
Once served with a civil claim, the Defendant has thirty (30) days to electronically file an answer. If an answer is not electronically filed within 30 days, the defendant is in default. A defendant may electronically file an answer from the 31st to the 45th day upon payment of court cost. Download the Answer/Counterclaim Form (PDF).
The defendant may electronically file a counterclaim against the plaintiff in Magistrate Court, if the counterclaim is related to the plaintiff's original charge and the defendant's total monetary claims are less than $15,000. Counterclaims are usually heard at the same time as the plaintiff's claims. If the Judge rules in the defendant's favor on a counterclaim, the defendant may collect damages from the plaintiff.
If the defendant fails to electronically file an answer within 45 days, the plaintiff may request a default judgment. To obtain a default judgment, the plaintiff must electronically file an Request for Default (PDF) with the Clerk of Magistrate Court at eFileGA.
The court will set a hearing date after the defendant electronically files an answer. The court will notify both parties of the date, time and location of the hearing. Both parties will have the right to present evidence and call witnesses. The parties should bring any relevant evidence with them to court; including copies of the contract, receipts, ledgers, photographs or other relevant items.
At the discretion of the courts, mediation may take place prior to court to have the opportunity to speak to see if the matter can be resolved without a hearing. A mediator will be provided by the court to assist the parties in discussing the matter, at no additional cost. If a decision cannot be reached during mediation, the court will set up a hearing date and the case will be presented to the judge.
If a party has witnesses, the party should bring them to the hearing. Written statements may not be accepted as evidence. If assistance is needed to obtain the attendance of witnesses, a request for subpoena form (PDF) should be completed and returned to the Clerk of Magistrate Court along with the required fee.