In Tulsa County, suit for recovery of money less than $7,500.00 is the exclusive jurisdiction of Small Claims Court. The small claims process includes:
- Demand for payment. Send the delinquent party a demand letter, return receipt requested, and give them 30 days to respond, after which you will take “further action.”
- File a petition and serve on the defendant. The petition states the allegations and facts in dispute, along with a dollar amount of recovery requested. The petition is filed in the county where the events occurred, the defendant resides, or the county where the contract was executed (signed). The filing fee for claims varies depending on the amount of money in controversy. Once the petition is filed, the defendant is served the petition and order for hearing by a process server.
- At the time of filing the petition, the clerk sets a hearing date not more than 60 days after the filing date. The defendant must be served at least 7 days prior to the hearing.
- The plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney appears at the hearing date. If the defendant fails to file an answer (prior to the hearing) or appear at the hearing, Judgment will be entered for you (called a “default judgment”).
- If Judgment is entered for you, you can recover your costs of filing the petition, any costs of service and “reasonable” attorney fees. If the defendant fails to appear and you obtain a default judgment, attorney fees are limited to 10% of the Judgment amount.
- Once a Judgment is obtained, you can arrange for payment with the Defendant if they are cooperative. Otherwise, you will need to initiate garnishment proceedings.
- Obtaining a garnishment on Defendant’s employment wages involves filing a Garnishment Petition in Tulsa County and serving it on the Defendant’s employer
- The garnishee (defendant’s employer) is required to file an answer to the petition and provide payment to the Plaintiff’s attorney. Your likelihood of receiving payment will depend on how many other garnishment liens are against Defendant’s earnings and whether Defendant is subject to income assignment for non-payment of child support. You are entitled to recover costs of the garnishment proceedings and attorney fees of.
- If the Defendant answers the Small Claims Petition or appears at the hearing, the Judge will order the parties to mediate prior to granting a hearing. Mediation involves the parties meeting with a neutral, court-appointed mediator in a conference room at the court house. The mediator will attempt to find some common ground between the parties to reach a settlement. If mediation is not successful, the Judge will order a hearing for later that day. The parties exchange exhibits just prior to the hearing, and the Judge hears brief arguments from both parties before rendering a decision.