Skip to main content

TRAFFIC PATTERNS NEAR MUNICIPAL COURT ARE CHANGING  Learn more  

Home / Departments / Services / Small Claims / Forms / Complaint FAQs
 

Start a Small Claims Lawsuit


A small claim is a lawsuit for money damages up to $6,000. The return of property or the completion of services cannot be requested in a small claims case.

"Punitive damages" and money paid to gather evidence or attend court (travel expenses, lost wages, baby-sitting, parking, etc.) are not recoverable. Court costs and interest are added to the amount of the claim if a judgment is awarded. Magistrates hear small claims cases and there are no juries.

Start a Small Claims lawsuit by completing and filing a Small Claims Complaint
An original plus 3 copies and the filing fee are required

Complaint Form Builder  Step-By-Step Guided Complaint Form Builder
*Email required

Handwritten Complaint Forms  Printable Complaint Forms and Instructions
*For handwritten complaints

If you filed a Small Claims lawsuit but now need to change something then you may complete and file the Amended Complaint.

Amended Complaint Form Builder  Guided Online Amended Complaint Form Builder
*Email required

Handwritten Amended Complaint Forms  Printable Amended Complaint Forms and Instructions
*For handwritten complaints

If you need more space to write plaintiff and defendant names and addresses use the Additional Parties form.

Additional Parties  Additional Parties

 

Personal service by a Court Service Bailiff is available for defendants within Franklin County. Sheriff service is an option for defendants in Ohio but outside of Franklin County.

Instructions for Personal Service  Instructions For Personal Service

FAQ

Who are the parties in a small claims case?
The "plaintiff" is the party who files a complaint. A plaintiff may only claim money that is owed to them - a case may not be filed to collect money for someone else. The "defendant" is the party being sued.
Do I need an attorney?
  • Individuals may represent themselves or be represented by an attorney.

  • Partnerships may be represented by a general partner or an attorney.

  • Corporations may be represented by an attorney, a non-lawyer officer, or a salaried employee; however, the following limitations apply to non-lawyer representatives: the officer or salaried employee may testify only about facts he or she has personal knowledge of and may present documentary evidence in support of the claim or defense. He or she may not examine or cross-examine any witness, present legal arguments, or engage in other acts of advocacy. The officer or salaried employee may not file or present motions, affidavits, or file paperwork to collect a judgment.
Is the Franklin County Small Claims Court the right place for my lawsuit? (Jurisdiction and Venue)

Small Claims lawsuits must meet the requirements for both jurisdiction and venue.

"Jurisdiction" is the Court’s authority to hear a particular type of case. The Small Claims Division has the authority to hear cases for money damages that do not exceed $6,000, not including interest and court costs. The Court does not have the authority to hear cases involving libel, slander, malicious prosecution, or abuse of legal process. No claims may be filed against the State of Ohio or the United States of America.

"Venue" means the territory (usually a specific county) where a case may be heard. Generally, the Franklin County Small Claims Court is a proper venue if either the incident or transaction giving rise to the lawsuit occurred in Franklin County or the defendant either lives in, or regularly conducts business in, Franklin County, Ohio.

How do I complete the Complaint form?
The Complaint Form Builder will take you step-by-step through the process of completing the Complaint forms. An email address is required. If you do not have an email address, the Complaint forms and instructions are available on the Small Claims Forms page.
How do I know if a Defendant is in the military?

Visit the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website to perform a search.

If you do not have the required information to perform a search you may request a search by mail:

Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC)
Attn: Military Verification
1600 Wilson Blvd., Suite 400
Arlington, VA 22209-2593
(703) 696-6762 – 5790/ fax (703) 696-4156

Where can I find a complete name and address for a Defendant?

Name and address information may be available by searching the internet, a telephone book, county auditor property records, or court sites like www.fcmcclerk.com for criminal and civil case records.

If the defendant is a business, the Ohio Secretary of State website may have the name and address of the business' statutory agent authorized to receive court service.

How do I write a Defendant's name and address?
  • Individuals: Provide a full first and last name; do not use nicknames.

    Joe Public
    23 Any Street
    Columbus, OH 43200

  • Corporations and Limited Liability Companies: If filing against a corporation or LLC and the regular business address cannot be determined, the corporation's Statutory Agent (a person appointed by the corporation to receive notice when the corporation is sued) may be included. The name and address of the Statutory Agent can be obtained from the Secretary of State's office website, by calling toll-free (877) 767-3453, or by emailing busserv@sos.state.oh.us. It is important to note that the Statutory Agent is not a defendant, but can accept Court notices.

    Columbus Example, LLC
    c/o John Liable, Statutory Agent
    2000 LLC Street
    Columbus, OH 43200

  • Partnerships: A partnership is an association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners of a business for-profit. A partnership may sue or be sued in its own name and may be represented by a general partner or an attorney. Although not required, many partnerships doing business in Ohio register with the Secretary of State by filing Statements of Partnership Authority. The name and address of the statutory agent for the partnership, or if no statutory agent, the names and mailing address of the general partners, can be found by visiting the Secretary of State's website, by calling toll-free (877) 767-3453, or by e-mailing busserv@sos.state.oh.us. Additional information about identifying partnerships may be found through the Franklin County Recorder's Office website or by calling (614) 525-3930 for more information about the specific partnership. It is a good idea to list the partnership and its general partners in the complaint. Here is an example of how to list a partnership:

    Rental Properties of FCMC, a partnership
    John Owner, general partner
    5000 Some Street
    Columbus, OH 43200

  • D.B.A.: "D.B.A." means, "doing business as" and is a fictitious business name that the owner (an individual or business entity) might use. The fictitious name is not a substitute for the identity of the party that owns the business. Here is an example of how a "D.B.A." might be used in identifying a party:

    Bill Buckeye, D.B.A. Jane's Restaurant
    100 Uptown Street
    Columbus, OH 43200

  • John Doe: A fictitious name may be used in a claim against a defendant whose identity and location are known, but whose name is not. If the defendant's name is unknown, that defendant may be designated in the complaint by any name, usually John Doe. The complaint must state the fact that the defendant's name could not be discovered and the defendant must also be sufficiently identified and described to allow personal service to be made when the complaint is filed. The body of the summons must contain the words "name unknown," and a copy of the summons and complaint must be served personally upon the defendant. When the name of the defendant is discovered, the complaint must be amended to include the defendant's actual name. Here is an example of how a John Doe party might be listed:

    John Doe
    123 Downtown Avenue
    Columbus, OH 43200
How do I file my Complaint forms with the Court?

Mail or hand-deliver the original Complaint plus 3 copies and New Filing Civil Cover Sheet to the Small Claims Division. If more than one defendant is being sued, a copy of the Complaint and any attachments for each additional defendant must be provided.

The filing fee must be paid when the complaint is filed, unless a fee waiver is requested. Fee waiver applications are available at the Small Claims Division.

If you mail your complaint form to the Clerk of Court, you may include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The Clerk will return a time-stamped copy to you.

A notice containing the date, time, and location of the small claims hearing will be mailed to you within three weeks of filing the complaint. Hearings are scheduled 30 to 40 days from the date the Complaint is filed.

What if I want to change my Complaint after I file?

An Amended Complaint must be filed if a change in the Complaint needs to be made. Changes requiring an Amended Complaint include:

  • Add a new party
  • Change an incorrect party to a correct party, or correct a spelling error in an individual or business name
  • Add new facts
  • Change the dollar amount of the claim
  • Include required exhibits

An amended complaint completely replaces the original complaint. Amended complaints must be filed and served at least 7 days before a court date. If your court date is less than seven (7) days away, you must request permission from the magistrate. The cost to file the amended complaint is $20 plus service costs to each defendant (certified or personal service).