- A small claims action may be filed if the claim does not exceed
$10,000. All eviction cases, regardless of the amount of damages
claimed, are filed in small claims court. You are responsible for
presenting your own case. It is not necessary to be represented by an
attorney. The Clerk of Circuit Courts, court commissioners and other
personnel are not authorized to provide legal advice. This brochure is
intended to provide only a summary of basic procedures and
information. Small Claims procedures are contained in Chapter 799 of
the Wisconsin Statutes. The number for Small Claims is (608) 785-9705.
- For most claims, the proper county to file your lawsuit is:
- 1. Where the claim arose;
- 2. Where the defendant resides.
- It is your responsibility to review the facts of your case and to
decide where to file your action.
- Small claims summons and complaint forms and garnishment packets
may be obtained from the Clerk of Circuit Courts office, Room 1200,
Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center, 333 Vine St., La Crosse,
Wisconsin 54601-3296. The original summons and complaint must be filed
with the Clerk of Circuit Courts office, Room 1200.
- Setting a Hearing Date
- All Small Claims actions are scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Fridays in
Intake Court. Make sure that you allow adequate time to accomplish
timely service when choosing your court date. Remember that Saturdays,
Sundays and holidays are not included in computing the number of days
required for proper service. In eviction actions, the court date
cannot be more than 30 days from the date you "issue" the summons. You
"issue" the summons when you sign and date it. The defendant must be
served at least 5 days prior to the return date (first court date).
For all other Small Claims cases, the court date cannot be more than
30 days from the "issue" date. The defendant must be served at least 8
days prior to the return date.
- Service of Summons
- Summons and complaints can be mailed to the defendant if they live
in the county and if the case is not for an eviction. All evictions
must be served by the Sheriff Department or a process server. Other
summons and complaint cases may also be served by the Sheriff
Department or a process server. There is a fee for the Sheriff
Department service. A copy of the summons and complaint should be
personally served on the defendant or a competent member of the
defendant's household. If, with reasonable diligence, the defendant
cannot be personally served, the plaintiff may appear on the court
date and ask for an adjournment to allow for service by publication.
Publication is accomplished by placing notice in the legal section of
a local newspaper for one week and mailing a copy of the summons and
complaint to the defendant's last known address. Proof of service must
be filed with the Clerk's office.
- The plaintiff must appear at the court date or the case will be
dismissed. If the defendant does not appear, a judgment will be
granted. If the defendant does appear, the parties will be asked to
settle in the hallway. If no agreement is reached, the Judges have
established a local court rule ordering the parties to go to
mediation. The exception is if there is an attorney involved. However,
all landlord tenant actions must be mediated. A law clerk is available
to assist. If no agreement can be reached between the parties, the
case will be then set for a trial before the court. If you fail to go
to mediation, when required, your case will be dismissed by the Court.
- If a judgment is rendered by a judge after the final hearing or
trial, it will be entered on the court record by clerk of circuit
court staff and a Notice of Entry of Judgment will be mailed to each
party at their last known address. This notice will state the amount
of the judgment, including statutory costs.
- State law directs the Clerk of Circuit Court to compute costs and
insert them in the judgment in favor of the successful party as
follows: filing fee, service fees, statutory attorney fees, witness
fees, jury fees and any other costs which may be allowed by the court.
- Selected Fee Schedule (Effective
October 30, 2007)
- Small Claims
- Summons & Complaint/$94.50
- Service by mail (per defendant)/$2.00
- 3rd Party Complaint/$117.50
- Writ of Eviction/$5.00
- Writ of Execution/$5.00
- Copies (per page)/$1.25
- Disclosure of Assets
- State law provides that a person obtaining a judgment for money is
entitled to receive information regarding the financial status of the
unsuccessful party within 15 working days after entry of judgment.
Forms called Order for Financial Disclosure are available in Room
1200. Failure of the judgment debtor (unsuccessful party) to provide
this information in writing to the judgment creditor is punishable by
court imposed sanctions. The judgment creditor may compel the judgment
debtor to appear in court and disclose this information by filing a
Petition and Order for Hearing. This form is also available in Room
1200 of the Courthouse and Law Enforcement Bldg, 333 Vine St., La
Crosse, WI. If judgment debtor fails to appear at this hearing, the
court may issue an Order for Commitment.
- A court judgment in your favor does not automatically result in
the payment of money. You must first initiate collection of a
judgment. Further court procedures are necessary. The primary method
available to small claims litigants for enforcing the payment of
judgment are (A) Garnishment and (B) Writs of Execution. (A)
Garnishment is a method of collection that allows the judgment
creditor to obtain monies owed by others to the judgment debtor,
usually by attaching the judgment debtor's earnings or bank accounts
(See 815 Wis. Stats.) (B) A judgment creditor may ask the court for a
Writ of Execution directing the sheriff to seize specific, non-exempt
personal property belonging to the judgment debtor for purposes of
satisfying a judgment. You may want to obtain professional advise to
decide a Writ of Execution is appropriate for your case (see 815 Wis.
- Docketing the Judgment
- Once a judgment has been obtained, the judgment creditor may
"docket" it by taking the case file to Room 1200 and paying a fee.
When a judgment is docketed, the effect is to place a lien on any real
estate owned by the judgment debtor in La Crosse County for 10 years.
However, it is not required that a judgment be docketed to attempt
collection from judgment debtor.
- Reopening Judgment
- The small claims court may reopen a default judgment. To reopen
the judgment a Notice of Motion and Motion to Reopen is prepared and
submitted to the assigned court. This form is available in Room 1200
of the Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center, 333 Vine St., La Crosse,
WI. A date and time of the hearing is obtained from the clerk of the
assigned court. A copy of notice of motion must be served on the
opposing party before the motion date. The judge will determine
whether the judgment will be set aside and a hearing held on the
merits of the case.