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What are Ohio Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?

Ohio Small claims suits are informal proceedings regarding civil disputes. These cases are heard by small claims courts that have a limited jurisdiction of claims under $6000

A class-action suit in Ohio is a lawsuit initiated by a group of individuals against a single Defendant. The parties involved are grouped as a class who have been harmed by the actions of the same company, product, or individual. This lawsuit is an efficient way to manage complex cases involving many individuals.

The Small Claims lawsuit in Ohio is governed by Chapter 1925 of the Ohio Revised Codes and the Class action suit by Rule 23 of the Ohio rules of civil procedure. The Ohio Supreme court also provides citizens of Ohio with a Small Claims Citizen’s guide.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Ohio?

Small claims cases, unlike other lawsuits, involve only money. The cases heard in a small claims court have the following characteristics;

  • They only involve modest sums of money.
  • The claims (with court costs and interest) must not exceed $6,000.00.
  • They are cases seeking punitive damages, involving libel and slander
  • The courts don’t have jurisdiction over lawsuits against the United States, the State of Ohio, and its agencies.

Common cases heard include;

  • A landlord refusing to return a security deposit
  • Buyers suing for defective merchandise
  • Business and trades individuals suing for unpaid bills
  • Employees and handypersons suing for unpaid wages
  • Landlords suing for damages to property and unpaid rent
  • Unlawful eviction notices
  • Deceptive sales violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act
  • A legal dispute with the neighbors, etc.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Ohio?

According to state laws, a class-action lawsuit is a legal action filed by numerous individuals who have suffered similar injuries against a single defendant whose actions have caused the harm.

The larger group is called the “class,” and the representatives are named as the plaintiffs in the case, but they represent everyone in the Class. The defendant in a class-action suit may be government entities, financial institutions, manufacturers, retailers, or employers.

How do I File a Claim in an Ohio Small Claims Court?

Requirements to file

A small claim lawsuit must be filed in the small claims division of a municipal court or county court with jurisdiction. Filing in the wrong court may lead to dismissal of the case.

The plaintiff should file in the county court where:

  • the defendant lives or works
  • the injury occurred, or
  • the claim for relief arose.

-The plaintiff must also ensure to file within the statute of limitations for Ohio personal injury lawsuits, which is usually two years.

-The plaintiff has to be eligible to file. He/she must be 18 years or older. If younger, a legal guardian or parent is required to file the suit.

-The plaintiff must be able to prove their claim with credible and relevant evidence.

Before officially filing, the last attempt at an informal resolution is advised.

Filing the complaint

This begins by filing a formal statement of the claim with statements describing the nature of the claim and the amount requested. The process may differ from court to court; hence, the plaintiff may ask the court clerk for details of the process and the necessary fees.

The following information is required:

  • Defendant’s Full legal name and business name, with contact information. The plaintiff should also find out if the defendant is on active military duty because federal laws protect such individuals.
  • A list of evidence supporting the claim
  • Names and addresses of all witnesses
  • Filing fees. This is typical $49 to Ohio, depending on how the defendant will be served the notice of the case.
  • The court may require some forms to be filled, such as Claim Statement/Complaint, Summons, Return of Summons, Answer, Subpoena, Abstract of Judgment, etc.
  • The court will officially notify the defendant of the lawsuit. When there is a response, the case can proceed.

If the plaintiff cannot afford the legal fees involved, he/she may file an affidavit of indigency to have the fees waived.

NB: Although a lawyer is not necessary for this process, some legal advice from a legal counsel is advised.

Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?

The small claims court process is simplified to make it easy for people with no legal education or understanding to know what to do. Hence, plaintiffs do not necessarily need attorneys to help with the process.

However, this also means that the plaintiff will be solely responsible for filing the claim, which means, longer hours of research and greater possibilities for mistakes and forfeiting the entire case. The plaintiff does not “need” an attorney to file a small claims case; however, there might be benefits for choosing to do so.

First, an attorney understands the intricacies of the legal process involved in the lawsuit; he/she will be able to easily navigate the process and potential surprises that arise during the case. Also, the plaintiff without an attorney will be at a disadvantage if a legal counsel represents the defense.

Besides, there are prevalent instances of an unexpected viable counterclaim by the defense in a small claims court. The plaintiff, who has no legal education, will be at a disadvantage of losing the case and even facing judgment up to the small claims court’s statutory amount.

Suppose the plaintiff is worried about the expenses of hiring an attorney. In that case, there are legal aid societies in every corner of the state, including the Ohio State Bar Association, willing to offer a free legal defense.

If that is impossible, the plaintiff may visit a self-help center in the court for legal advice.

How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Ohio

In Ohio, class action cases are often pursued when the harm experienced is primarily financial and not personal injuries.

In a class action, the parties involved are grouped as a class and represented by one or a few individuals. This makes the lawsuit more affordable since the expenses are pulled from the members.

How to file a class-action lawsuit

  • Consulting and employing a competent class action attorney. This will help decide if a class action lawsuit is the better option.
  • Identify colleagues or peers with similar interests and similar significant characteristics.
  • Choose a named plaintiff who will take the employer to court and actively participate in the court proceedings.
  • The attorney and the lead plaintiff must demonstrate that the plaintiffs have a valid claim, with proof, federal or state laws that apply, etc.
  • Filing The Class action Complaint
    • It is advisable to hire an attorney to draft a class action complaint. It will contain details of the events that caused financial harm or injury to the Class.
    • It will also state that the lawsuit attempts to recover compensation for the Lead plaintiff and everyone else affected by the defendant’s actions.

In Ohio, the judge decides if the case can proceed as a class action through a class certification by considering the following:

  • The existence of an identifiable ‘class’ actually exists.
  • If the named representatives are all members of the Class.
  • If the forming the Class is a practical decision.
  • If there are “questions of law or fact common to the class.”
  • If the named representatives’ claims are common to that of the Class.
  • If the representatives will “fairly and adequately protect the interests of the whole class.”
  • If the Class action is superior to other methods that might be used to resolve the individual claims of members of the Class

If the Class gets certified, the plaintiffs will be notified by mail, and the lawsuit may proceed to trial.

A trial court’s decision may involve a monetary award or order of changes in conduct or practices by the defendant. Sometimes, class action suits are settled out of court with each plaintiff receiving a portion of the settlement; This may be in the form of cash, refunds, services, or other benefits.

Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?

The decision to choose a class action lawsuit or a single party/individual lawsuit depends solely on which benefits the specifics of the case.

However, here are some reasons why a class action suit may be a better option.

  • They make litigation cheaper because the plaintiffs are grouped, which reduces court costs and attorney fees.
  • Class action suits may result in quicker settlement and reward because a single judge hears the case, unlike when an individual files a lawsuit against a defendant who has wronged many people.
  • Everybody wins in a class action suit provided the case was ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. That is, if a settlement is awarded, every member is entitled to a portion of it.
  • Class action litigation generally can accomplish fair and effective resolution of numerous claims in one lawsuit.

A major disadvantage of Class action suits is that, if the plaintiffs lose the lawsuit, they’re prohibited from filing individual suits later.

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