New Law Increases Access to Ohio Small Claims Court
The Ohio General Assembly has enacted a law that raises the monetary limit for cases handled through Ohio's small claims court system. The new maximum amount of $6,000 for a small claims case will replace the current limit of $3,000 when House Bill 387 becomes effective in late September. Under the new law, a defendant in the case may also file a counterclaim for up to $6,000. Governor Kasich signed the bill on June 28, 2016.
Ohio law requires every county and municipal court in Ohio to establish a small claims division to handle minor disputes involving only the recovery of money. A small claims court cannot hear cases for slander, libel, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, return of personal property, punitive damages or other cases seeking remedies other than money. A person may file a small claims complaint and present the case in court without the assistance of an attorney, but may have legal representation if desired. The court may appoint a magistrate, who must be an attorney, to oversee the case and render a decision. The court also has the authority to enforce a monetary judgment against a party. Because small claims cases tend to be simple, they are resolved in less time and with less expense than cases heard by other courts.
The increased monetary limit for small claims cases will allow farmers and agribusinesses to address more disputes quickly and without the expense of an attorney. Operators and landowners owed money for products or services in excess of the current $3,000 small claims maximum often express frustration that it could be too costly and time consuming to address the matter through municipal or county courts. The new higher limit of $6,000 should capture many of these cases and offer an opportunity to recover such losses through the small claims process. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati), the change will "bring Ohio in line with surrounding states and make Ohio a better place to do business and generate jobs."