Beginning September 27, 2016, small claims courts throughout Ohio will be able to hear cases with damage claims of up to $6,000. For decades, access to small claims courts has been limited to those cases with damages of $3,000 or less. The notable 100% increase marks the first increase seen in Ohio in nearly twenty years and puts the Buckeye State more on track with the national average for small claims courts nationwide.
Sponsors of the increase believe it will allow small businesses to cost effectively recover debts owed. This could be attributable to the relatively minimal filing fees, expedited hearings, and the possibility, pursuant to R.C. 1925.17, that a corporation may move forward with or without legal representation in small claims court - an option which is otherwise not available to corporations in other civil cases. However, while the appeal of pursuing smaller matters without incurring attorneys' fees is undoubtedly alluring, corporations moving forward without legal counsel also do so with inherent risk.
If a corporation chooses to appear and/or defend through its officer or employee (instead of an attorney), that officer or employee may not "engage in cross-examination, argument, or other acts of advocacy." For example, if a corporation, through its officer or employee, files or defends on a past due debt claim, that officer would not be permitted to cross-examine the other party or any other fact witness. The officer or employee would also not be permitted to present argument of any kind to the Court. The tools of cross-examination, argument and advocacy are critical to adequately represent your legal interests. Depending on the type of case and the parties involved, choosing to move forward without these valuable tools could preclude the possibility of recovery or asserting a viable defense.
Accordingly, it is important that before deciding how best to meet the needs of your company, you consult with an attorney to determine the best practices for moving forward with claims and defenses. It is equally important to be mindful that once a small claims case has been filed, the process moves quickly and a timely response needs to be served and filed with the court to preserve your business's rights.
For more information on filing or defending suit on behalf of your business please contact attorney Jennifer R. Grewe at 937.223.8177.