Georgia Small Claims in Magistrate Court: An Overview

Learn about filing a small claims case in Georgia Magistrate Court.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims dollar limit in Georgia Magistrate Court?

You can ask for up to $15,000 in the small claims division in Georgia Magistrate Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Georgia. The court doesn't place a cap on the dollar amount awarded in eviction cases.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in a Georgia small claims court?

Evictions are heard in Georgia Magistrate Court. It's also an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, too, such as property damage cases and breach of contract disputes.

Which Georgia Magistrate Court should I file my small claims action in?

Georgia has many Magistrate Courts. You must choose the proper court location or venue; otherwise, the defendant—the person or company you sue—will be able to ask the court to transfer or dismiss your action. In Georgia, you can file in the county where:

  • the defendant resides
  • an unincorporated business is physically located, or
  • a corporation's registered agent is located (go to Georgia's Secretary of State webpage and use the "Business Search" button on the right navbar).

You might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.

When must I file a case in small claims court in Georgia?

You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, you'll have two years for injury cases, four years for property damage matters, and two and four years for oral and written contracts, respectively. If you don't file within this period, you lose your right to sue.

The statute of limitations can stop and restart depending on various circumstances, and figuring out when it expires can be challenging. For instance, if a minor is injured, the personal injury statute won't begin running until the child reaches 18 years of age. Learn more about calculating the statute of limitations.

Can an attorney represent a small claims claimant in Georgia Magistrate Court?

Lawyers can appear on behalf of small claims plaintiffs or claimants.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Yes. A defendant must file a response to the complaint within 30 days to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment. Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.

Will I have a judge or jury trial in small claims court in Georgia?

A judge will hear your case at the Magistrate Court small claims hearing. Jury trials aren't allowed. Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal a Georgia Magistrate Court small claims case?

Yes. Georgia law allows either party to file an appeal within 30 days of the judge's decision. The clerk or a local attorney should be able to explain how to determine the judge's decision date (the statute leaves this unclear). You must comply with this and other rules, so be sure to do your research and count the days accurately.

Will the court collect my judgment for me?

No. You'll be responsible for all collection efforts. It's a good idea to determine whether you can collect before deciding whether to sue.

Where can I learn more about small claims court in Georgia?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try Georgia Department of Law Consumer Protection Division's Magistrate Court webpage. You can also view Georgia law online on Georgia's Judicial System webpage. (Ga. Code Ann. §§ 15-10-1; 15-10-2; 15-10-40 to 15-10-54; 15-10-80; 15-10-87.)

For detailed help with case filing, court strategy, and collecting a money judgment, see Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court by Attorney Cara O'Neill (Nolo).

Look out for Legal Changes. This overview doesn't provide all of the information needed to file a small claims case. Also, keep in mind that statutes can change, and checking them is always a good idea. How the courts interpret and apply the law can also change. These are just some of the reasons to consult an attorney if you have any questions about litigating your case or if you aren't comfortable independently verifying the law.

Updated February 6, 2020