Definitions and Terms

Small Claims

 

A legal action filed in County Court to settle minor legal disputes among parties.

 

Complaint/Petition

 

A written statement made by the Plaintiff/Petitioner detailing the legal claims against the Defendant/Respondent.

 

Plaintiff/Petitioner

 

A person who brings a case against another in a court of law.

 

Defendant/Respondent

 

An individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law

Costs

Fees and charges the Plaintiff/Petitioner pays to file the case or collect on the judgment. 

 

Counterclaim

 

A claim the Defendant/Respondent makes against the Plaintiff/Petitioner after the Plaintiff/Petitioner brings a small claims suit, stating that the Plaintiff/Petitioner owes the Defendant/Respondent money.

 

Damages

Money awarded by the judge.

 

Declaration

A written statement, signed under the penalty of perjury, which includes the date and the place of signing. Usually includes a statement that the facts in the statement are "true and correct to the best of my knowledge."

 

Default judgment

A judgment awarded by the court against one of the parties because they didn't show up for the hearing.

Discovery

 

Finding out the details of the other party's case against you.

Dismissal

When the judge dismisses the case because the Plaintiff/Petitioner didn't come to court. Means that the Defendant/Respondent does not have to pay anything.

 

Execution

 

The court ordering the sheriff's office to take property owned by the judgment debtor to pay the debt that is owed.

 

Garnishment

Taking a percentage of the judgment debtor's wages on a regular basis in order to pay the debt owed.

Proof of service

A document filed with the court stating that a party has been properly presented with copies of the court papers.

Response

 

Paperwork by the Defendant/Respondent that is filed with the court in response to Plaintiff/Petitioner’s complaint.

 

Satisfaction of judgment

 

Paperwork by the judgment creditor that is filed with the court acknowledging that a debt has been paid.

 

Settlement

 

The parties coming to an agreement between themselves without involving the judge or jury.

 

Service

 

Delivering the court paperwork to the person who is being sued.

Statute of limitations

The period of time during which a lawsuit can be filed.

 

Summons

 

A notice telling the Defendant/Respondent that he or she is being sued and must appear in court.

Judgment

The amount the judge says is owed by the debtor.