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Small Claims

Small claims court provides an informal way to resolve minor lawsuits and other legal problems. You may use small claims court in any of the following situations:
  • Someone injures you, damages your property or violates a contract to which you are a party and the amount you seek is $10,000 or less.
  • You want to repossess property valued at $10,000 or less. This is called a Replevin action.
  • You already have a civil judgment for $10,000 or less against someone and you want to enforce the judgment by seizing funds or property that the other person possesses.
  • You are a landlord seeking to evict a tenant. Any amount of rent may be owed. The $10,000 limit does not apply.

Vernon County Small Claims Rules
Small claims court, as established by Chapter 799 of the Wisconsin Statutes, provides a forum for parties to resolve certain disputes expeditiously under simplified rules of evidence and procedure. Virtually all small claims cases should be resolved within 60 days of filing and with no more than two court appearances: the initial appearance on the return date and the trial, if necessary. To that end the following rules are adopted and any prior local rules in conflict with these rules are hereby repealed.

The clerk shall provide written notice of these rules and all court appearances to all parties and counsel of record. All notices of court appearances, shall state clearly the date, time and location of the court appearance.

Except for good cause shown, all cases will be called and heard and all scheduling will occur during the regular, monthly return date.

All parties necessary to resolution of the case and counsel of record must appear in person on the return date.

Alternative Dispute Resolution:
All contested cases will be referred to alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Volunteer mediators will be available at the courthouse on the return date. Failure to participate in ADR in good faith will result in a dismissal or a default judgment.

If the case is not resolved by ADR, the defendant shall file a written answer with the clerk and mail a copy to the plaintiff within 10 days of the return date. Failure to comply will result in a default judgment on motion by the plaintiff.

On the return date all contested cases will be given a firm date for trial

A motion is a request for a court order. Pretrial motions may be made orally on the return date. All other motions must be submitted in writing and will be reviewed by the court prior to scheduling any hearing on the motion. The court may in its discretion decide a motion without requiring a written response or scheduling a hearing.

Post-judgment contempt actions alleging failure to complete a financial disclosure statement must be supported by affidavit and must be personally served.

Failure to appear:
Tardiness (failure to be present in the courtroom set forth in the notice when the case is called) or failure to have all necessary parties present on the return date are considered failures to appear and will result in a default judgment or a dismissal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of Small Claims?

Small Claims court provides an informal way to resolve minor lawsuits and other legal problems.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

It is not necessary to be represented by an attorney. The Clerk of Circuit Court and other personnel are not authorized to provide legal advise.

Do I have to appear for the Return date?

If you are the plaintiff you are required to appear at the Return date or otherwise known as the first appearance. If you are the defendant and you do not appear a default judgment will be entered against you.

What happens if both the plaintiff and the defendant appear at the Return date?

If both parties are present for the return date and the defendant is contesting the claim being brought against him/her the judge will order both parties to go directly to mediation.

What is Mediation?

Both parties are ordered to go into Mediation; we have volunteer mediators here on that day to help resolve the issue. If you are not able to resolve the claim you will then have a court trial scheduled at a later date.

What do I need to bring with for a Court trial?

You will be giving your testimony to the judge as to why you feel the plaintiff is not entitled to what they are asking for and if you are the plaintiff, you want to bring any information as to why you feel the defendant owes you money.

What happens if a judgment is entered against me?

When a judge renders judgment after the final hearing or trial, the small claims clerk will then enter it into the court record and a Notice of Entry of Judgment will be mailed to each party at their last known address. If you are the defendant you will also receive an Order for Financial Statement along with your Notice of Entry of Judgment. You are required to complete that form and return to the judgment creditor within 15 working days after the judgment has been entered.

After I am awarded a judgment when will I receive payment?

Once you receive judgment in your favor you are not automatically guaranteed payment in full. Firstly, you may want to initiate payment from the debtors; if you are unsuccessful you may follow the methods available to small claims litigants for enforcing the payment of judgments by filing a garnishment, or receiving a Writ of Execution or a Writ of Replevin.

What is an Earnings Garnishment?

An earnings garnishment is a way to collect money that a court has awarded but that remains unpaid. As a result of a garnishment lawsuit, a portion of the earnings of the person who owes the money is taken (garnished) to pay the person to whom the debt is owed.

What does it mean to docket a judgment?

Once a judgment is entered the judgment creditor may pay the correct fee to have the judgment "docketed", the effect is to place a lien on any real estate owned by the debtor in Vernon County for 10 years. However, it is not required that a judgment be docketed to attempt collection from the debtor.

Small Claims Filing Fees

Various fees must be paid, and many are subject to change. Presently the filing fee is $94.50.

There is often a charge for having the summons and complaint served. Either a process server or the sheriff's department may serve it on the defendant.

If the defendant's address is in the county where you file suit, the court may serve it by mail for $2 per defendant. If the defendant resides outside of the county or the claim is for Eviction or Replevin the defendant must have personal service. (Fees charged by the Sheriff's dept. and a process server may vary)

If you want to require a witness to come to the trial, you have to issue a subpoena. The subpoena must be served just like the summons and complaint, with the same fees. In addition, you will have to reimburse each witness a fee of $25 per day plus mileage.

If you would like information and/or Small Claims paperwork to start the process you may contact the Vernon County Clerk of Courts Office or go the the Wisconsin Courts Website, by clicking here.