The Trumbull County Central District Court hears Civil Actions in which the amount of damages claimed do not exceed $15,000.00, excluding interest and court costs.
It is not legally required that you be represented by an attorney, however it is generally recommended. Unlike small claims, more strict compliance with all Rules of Procedure and Evidence is required. Furthermore, court employees are prohibited by law from offering legal advice or assistance. If you need help it is recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney. If you need an attorney but feel that you cannot afford one, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Services of Northeast Ohio at 330-373-1448.
Civil Actions encompass a wide variety of disputes too numerous to itemize. However, some common civil complaints include: breach of contracts; accidents; debt collection; conversion; disputes between landlords and tenants; evictions; rent escrows; and Bureau of Motor Vehicles appeals.
Small Claims are separate from this division, where damages may not exceed $6,000.00. Click Here to go to Small Claims.
Civil actions may be filed in the Trumbull County Central Court District against another individual, company, or other entity, if:
The transaction or incident on which your claim is based on took place in Cortland City, Bazetta Township, Mecca Township, Johnston Township, Greene Township and/or Fowler Township; or
Regardless of where the incident or transaction took place, if any defendants (if there are more than one) lives or has as his/hers principal place of business in Cortland City, Bazetta Township, Mecca Township, Johnston Township, Greene Township and/or Fowler Township; or
The property which is the subject of the claim is located in Cortland City, Bazetta Township, Mecca Township, Johnston Township, Greene Township and/or Fowler Township.
To begin a Civil Action, a formal statement of the claim (“Complaint”) is filed with the Court. The following must be provided:
The full name and address of each plaintiff in the suit;
The full name and address of each defendant in the suit.
A short and plain statement of the claim;
The demand for judgment which indicates the amount of the claim;
A statement indicating whether the defendant is, or is not, on active military duty;
The plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney’s signature on the complaint; and
Filing fees of $100.00 for one defendant, plus $10.00 for each additional defendant.
The plaintiff is responsible for providing the address where a defendant can be served. The court cannot do this for plaintiff.
Once the complaint is filed: the information on the complaint is entered into the Court’s Case Management System; a case number is assigned; and the court issues a Summons along with a copy of the Complaint to the Defendant(s), by certified mail at the address supplied by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff may also request Personal Service of the Summons and Complaint. The fee for Personal Service by a bailiff is $10.00.
Within 28 days after being served, the defendant then should respond to the Complaint by filing an Answer, or requesting additional time to do so. If the defendant fails to properly respond to the Complaint within the time allowed, Default Judgment may be issued against defendant.
If a Summons is returned as “unclaimed,” “refused,” or for any other reason, then a notice will be sent to plaintiff’s attorney or plaintiff indicating that fact. Under appropriate circumstances, the plaintiff then may request alias summons be issued. Upon such a request for alias summons, the court will then resend the summons via regular 1st Class Mail. The fee for issuance of an alias summons is: $20.00.
If a new address is provided, then new service will be sent out certified mail; or, if the plaintiff requests, by Personal Service.
Hearings and Trials
Depending upon the case, there can be several stages or events in a regular Civil Action, including, but not limited to: Pleadings and Motions; Discovery; Hearings on Motions; Pretrial Conferences; and ultimately Trials.
There will normally be at least one Pretrial in most regular Civil Cases. In the typical Pretrial, the parties and/or their attorneys will meet with the Judge to discuss the case and any procedural matters; rule on any pending Motions; explore settlement possibilities; and schedule discovery, further Pretrials, Hearings and the Trial.
If the case is not otherwise disposed of, a Trial will ultimately come on before the court, or perhaps a jury. At the conclusion of the Trial, the Judge will issue his decision in the form of a Judgment Entry. However, the Judge may take the matter under advisement and issue a written Judgment Entry at a later date.
Continuances & Requests for Different Hearing Dates:
For significant reasons, a party may request a continuance (rescheduling) of a scheduled Hearing, Pretrial or Trial date. Mere inconvenience standing alone is not normally sufficient cause for a continuance.
A party requesting a continuance should do so well before the scheduled date, and should first attempt to secure the opposing party’s consent to the proposed continuance.
Except in extraordinary circumstances, requests for continuances should be made in writing, and a copy should be sent to the opposing party.
Disagreement with the Judgment - Appeal
If you feel the court has made a legal or factual error in arriving at its decision, you may appeal the decision to the Ohio 11th District Court of Appeals. Appeals must be filed within 30 days of judgment being appealed. Again, it is recommended that all parties seek the assistance of legal counsel in an appeal.
Cost for the appeal is $190.00. Two checks are required. Make one check payable to Trumbull Central Court in the amount of $40.00. Make another check payable to Trumbull County Clerk of Courts in the amount of $150.00. This is required when you are filing the appeal.
If the plaintiff decides to dismiss the action before the defendant responds to the Complaint or before the hearing, plaintiff should file the following motion with the court: Voluntary Dismissal
Forcible Entry & Detainer (Evictions)
Landlords must strictly follow the provisions of the Ohio Revised Code and the following steps to legally evict a tenant.
First the landlord must serve the tenant a written notice to leave the premises. The following is a copy of the form: Notice to Leave Premises. The notice indicates the problem, such as delinquency in paying rent, or keeping of unauthorized pet, etc. Then, only after a full three (3) days has expired may the landlord file a Forcible Entry & Detainer Complaint with the Court.
In the Complaint, the plaintiff/landlord is requesting the court to issue a Writ of Restitution [an order requiring the defendant(s)/tenant(s) vacate the premises]. The plaintiff/landlord may also wish to include a second count to the Complaint seeking a monetary award for unpaid rent, damages, late fees, etc.
The cost of the filing for an action for an Eviction is $100.00; which includes the cost of the Writ of Restitution.
All Forcible Entry and Detainer actions are heard by the court on Fridays. The court will use its best efforts to schedule hearings on the first cause action (for Writ of Restitution) within 14 days after the Complaint is filed. The court generally tries to schedule hearings on the second cause (monetary damages) approximately 30 days after the first hearing.
Forcible Entry and Detainer complaints are served on the defendant by personal service.
When the court issues a Writ of Restitution, it will command the defendant(s)/tenant(s) to vacate the premises within 10 days after service of the writ. If the defendant(s)/tenant(s) does not vacate within that time period, the plaintiff/landlord should notify the court, and the court will have a bailiff (or other officer) enforce the writ by forcibly removing the defendant(s)/tenant(s).
The landlord is responsible for scheduling the movers and the bailiff. The landlord should also be at the eviction site on the arranged date and time. The bailiff does not make these arrangements, nor does the bailiff assist with the moving.
If a second cause of action was filed; the same rules and procedures apply as in a regular civil action.
If a tenant has already vacated the premises (either voluntarily or otherwise), and a landlord then wishes to bring an action for monetary damages only, the landlord should bring his action through the normal civil or small claims procedures.
Payment after Judgment
After a judgment is rendered, the issue of collecting or paying the judgment typically arises. Absent voluntary payment of the judgment, the successful party may wish to pursue other avenues to attempt to collect on the judgment, including: Garnishment of wages or accounts; filing of a Judgment Lien; Debtor’s Examination; and/or Affidavit of Financial Status.
Garnishment is a common form of forcing payment of a judgment. The court orders the judgment debtor's (defendant’s) employer, bank, or other third party holding money belonging to the judgment debtor, to satisfy the judgment by paying from the judgment debtor's earnings or bank account to the court. The court then pays the judgment creditor.
There are limitations in garnishments, including: (1) If the funds in an account can be traced to certain types of exempt sources, such as social security payments or certain pensions, the garnishment may be disallowed; and (2) You may not garnish more than 25% of the net wages of the judgment debtor.
As is the case in the initial filing, the Plaintiff/Judgment Creditor is responsible to provide the names and addresses of Defendant/Judgment Debtor and the Garnishee (the third party holding the Judgment Debtor’s funds). The court cannot, and will not do this for you.
The forms for wages garnishment can be found at: Personal Earnings Garnishment. BEFORE a wage garnishment can be filed, plaintiff is required to file a 15 Day Notice of Court Proceedings to Collect Debt form with the defendant(s). How to Serve This Form and the 15 Day Notice Form are provided.
The fee for a Wage Garnishment is $50.00.
The forms for non-wage garnishments (such as banks) can be found at: Garnishment Non-wages.
The fee for Garnishment of Personal Earnings is $50.00.
The fee for Non-wage Garnishment is $40.00, plus a $1.00 check payable to the Bank, Credit Union, etc. which is being served.
A successful plaintiff (judgment creditor) who has received a judgment may wish to record a judgment lien against the judgment debtor’s (defendant’s) real estate. A judgment lien imposes a lien on the judgment debtor’s real estate much like a mortgage. However, a judgment lien will expire after five (5) years unless it is renewed.
The first step in recording a judgment lien is the securing of a Certificate of Judgment from the trial court. This court’s fee for issuing a Certificate of Judgment is $25.00. The request to obtain a certificate of judgment can be found at: Certificate of Judgment.
The judgment creditor then must transfer the Certificate of Judgment to the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas. Thereafter, the judgment creditor may record the Common Pleas Court’s Certificate of Judgment with the County Recorder of the county wherein the real estate is located. The Clerk of the Common Pleas Court and the County Recorder will each assess their own fees.
Affidavit and Motion for Debtor's Exam
A Debtor’s Exam is an opportunity to force the judgment debtor (defendant) to appear in court and give statements under oath providing information on their assets and income, including: insurance policies, bank accounts, credit cards, wages, real estate or other assets.
The judgment creditor (plaintiff) may request a Debtor’s Exam by completing Affidavit for Debtors Exam and filing it with the court. The fee for a Debtor's Exam is $35.00.
The Judgment Creditor is responsible for providing the address where a Judgment Debtor can be served. The court cannot, and will, not do this for you.
The court will schedule a debtor examination and will send an order to the Judgment Debtor(s) to appear in court to fill out a Judgment Debtor's Information Form and answer questions regarding his or her assets and income under oath.
If the Judgment Debtor fails to appear at the debtor’s exam the Judgment Creditor may file a motion for Contempt for Failing to Appear to Debtor's Exam. Once the motion is received a contempt summons will issue requiring the Judgment Debtor to appear.
Satisfaction of Judgment
Once a judgment has been paid in full, the Plaintiff should file a notice of satisfaction with the Court stating that the judgment was paid in full. Satisfaction of Judgment Form.