Small Claims

The Small Claims Division processes cases in which an individual, partnership, corporation or sole proprietor brings an action against another individual, partnership, corporation or sole proprietor for money damages. Reasons may include but are not limited to delinquent rent, overdue accounts, physical damage to property or breach of contract.  

The party starting the case is the plaintiff and the party being sued is the defendant. The defendant must reside or conduct business in the City of Detroit.  A Small Claims suit may be started by:

1.Purchasing a Small Claims Affidavit form or downloading the form in its entirety (link to SCAO forms

2.Completing the Affidavit (every line and box must be completed) 

3.Filing the Affidavit along with the appropriate filing and service fees on the 2nd Floor Civil Division, 36th District Court 421 Madison, Detroit, Michigan. 

Click to view the 36th District Court Fee Schedule.
NOTE: Personal service fees must be arranged with the Court Officer

A plaintiff choosing to file a Small Claims case waives their rights to:

1. Recover more than $5,500.00 in damages
2. An attorney,
3. A jury trial
4. Appeal of the district court judge’s decision (either party can remove the case to the General Civil Division after filing but before trial). 

If you do not wish to waive any of these rights you may wish to consult with an attorney to determine if you should proceed to filing a General Civil case. The District Court jurisdictional limit for General Civil cases is $25,000.00.

All Small Claims cases are scheduled for mediation with a mediator from the Wayne Mediation Center.  The Court will generally schedule a mediation date within 45 days after the claim has been filed. However, please note seven days before the mediation date, the Court must be provided with a Proof of Service showing the defendant was properly served in accordance with Michigan Court Rule, typically by way of certified mail or personal service. Failure to timely submit the Proof of Service will result in the mediation being rescheduled or dismissed.

A Small Claims case cannot proceed to mediation or trial if the defendant has not been properly served in accordance with Michigan Court Rules. If the plaintiff chooses to arrange for service, the plaintiff is solely responsible for ensuring that all paperwork reaches the Court in a timely and complete manner. Failure to timely provide Proof of Service could result in the rescheduling or dismissal of a case.

There are often occasions where a defendant cannot be served in person or by certified mail. These circumstances require the plaintiff to file a Motion and Order for Alternate Service, Affidavit of Attempted Service, Postal Verification (verification from the U.S. Post Office that the plaintiff is providing the Court with a good address) along with a$20.00 motion fee.  This is an Order that allows the plaintiff to serve the defendant by alternative methods (i.e. posting or publication).

Once it is determined the defendant has been properly served, the case will proceed to mediation.  If the parties cannot resolve their dispute in mediation, they will proceed to trial with a District Court Magistrate. 

If the defendant was properly served and fails to appear at mediation or trial, the Magistrate may issue a Default Judgment. If the Plaintiff fails to appear, the case will be dismissed. If the case proceeds to trial and either party is dissatisfied with the Magistrate’s decision, either party may appeal the Magistrate’s decision within 7 days of the decision.  Upon appeal the case will be assigned to a 36th District Court Judge and scheduled for trial.  The decision of the 36th District Court Judge is final and there are no further appeals.