Part 1.00 Small Claims

3-1.01 Forms of Summons and Complaints
3-1.02 Default
3-1.03 Contested Cases
3-1.04 Motions
3-1.05 Referral to Arbitration When a Jury is Demanded
3-1.06 Dismissal for Want of Prosecution
3-1.07 Costs in Small Claims
3-1.08 Small Claims Mediation

3-1.01 Forms of Summons & Complaint


A. An approved Summons form provided by the Clerk of the Circuit Court, substantially in the form set forth in the Illinois Supreme Court Rules, shall be used in any Small Claims action.

B. Small Claims actions may be commenced by filing a Complaint on forms supplied by the Clerk of the Circuit Court or the Center for Self-Representation. The Complaint shall state the amount of and the basis for Plaintiff’s claim, giving dates and relevant facts.

C. If the claim is based on a written document, a copy of the written document must be attached to the original and all copies of the Complaint. If the written document is not available to the Plaintiff, an affidavit stating that the written document is unavailable shall be attached to the Complaint.

D. A copy of the Complaint and Small Claims Summons (along with any written instrument required to be attached) shall be served upon each Defendant by any of the methods allowed by law, including certified or registered mail in compliance with Supreme Court Rule 284.

E. Copies of Complaints served upon Defendants shall have attached to them two blank Appearance forms which may be used by the Defendants.

F. The Small Claims Summons, when issued, shall contain Notice to Defendant setting forth the following language:

If you wish to contest this claim you must do the following:
Pay the statutory Appearance fee and file a written Appearance (forms may be obtained online or in the main office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court) on or before the date and time specified above for your appearance, hereafter called the return date. You must mail or otherwise deliver to the opposing party a copy of your Appearance. If the Appearance is timely filed and the fee paid, you are not required to appear in court in person on the return date. Your case will then be tried on the 14th day after the return date, and you should be present in court at the above specified address prepared to proceed to trial. 
 
In the event the trial day falls upon a court holiday, the trial shall be held on the next court date following that court holiday.

If you do not wish to contest this claim, you need not appear in person or file a written Appearance and a Judgment will be entered against you on the return date, for the amount claimed by the Plaintiff in the Complaint plus court costs.”

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3-1.02 Default


If a Defendant, who has been duly served with a Summons, fails to appear on or before the date and time designated as the return date, the Court may take the allegations in the Complaint as admitted by the Defendant. Upon Motion and without Notice, the Court may enter a Judgment by default against Defendant for the amount claimed plus court costs. Such Judgment may be entered on the return date, or any time thereafter. The Court may in its discretion, require the presentation of evidence and continue the case for prove-up.

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3-1.03 Contested Cases


A. A Defendant desiring to contest the Plaintiff’s claim must do one of the following after service of Summons:

1. File a written Appearance in the main office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court on or before the time on the return date stated in Plaintiff’s Summons; or

2. Appear in person before the Court on the return date.

B. In either event, trial of Plaintiff’s Complaint shall be automatically set for the fourteenth day after the return date. When the Defendant has contested Plaintiff’s Complaint by filing an Appearance, neither the Plaintiff nor the Defendant need appear on the return date.

C. No trial will be heard on the return date, unless by agreement of the parties and the Court. Unless the Court orders otherwise, or upon proper Notice and Motion, or by agreement of the parties approved by the Court, no cause will be set for trial on any date other than the fourteenth day after the return date.

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3-1.04 Motions


Motions shall be noticed and heard in accordance with Chapter 2, Part 1.00. Any Motion shall be noticed for a hearing on a date prior to the trial date. If, with leave of Court, a Motion is scheduled for hearing on the trial date, the parties shall be prepared to proceed to trial immediately after hearing of said Motion.

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3-1.05 Referral to Arbitration When a Jury Is Demanded


No Jury Demand in a Small Claims action shall be allowed unless filed by the Plaintiff at the time the action is commenced or by the Defendant not later than the return date, unless otherwise allowed by the Court. In the event that any party files a Jury Demand in a Small Claims action, that fact shall be brought to the attention of the Judge presiding by the party filing the demand, and the case shall be referred to Court-Annexed Mandatory Arbitration for a hearing before a trial is scheduled.

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3-1.06 Dismissal for Want of Prosecution


Any Small Claims case which remains inactive for forty-five days may be dismissed for want of prosecution on the Court’s own Motion, without Notice. 

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3-1.07 Costs in Small Claims


If the prevailing party requests costs other than those supported by the  record at the time of the entry of Judgment, said party shall tender an affidavit individually listing each such cost and the amount sought, together with a statement by affiant that those costs have been paid by affiant.

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3-1.08 Small Claims Mediation


A. Purpose. The bench and bar of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit recognize the success of court-annexed alternate dispute programs and a particular need in the area of Small Claims and Law Magistrate cases, especially but not limited to matters where parties represent themselves. The Circuit Judges of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit adopt these Rules to assist the litigants in Small Claims disputes and to maximize efficiency of court time in Small Claims system.

B. Actions Eligible. This program is intended to assist in Small Claims and Law Magistrate cases in which any parties represent themselves at the initial return date. In addition, this service may be offered to any other Small Claims and Law Magistrate case which the Judge presiding feels might be appropriate or in which the parties agree to participate.

C. Confidentiality. All oral or written communciations in a mediation conference, other than executed settlement agreements, shall be exempt from Discovery and shall be confidential and inadmissible as evidence in the underlying cause of action unless all parties agree otherwise. Evidence with respect to alleged settlement agreements shall be admissible in proceedings to enforce the settlement. Subject to the foregoing, unless authorized by the parties, the mediator may not disclose any information obtained during the mediation process.

D. Scheduling, Referral, Conduct, Termination and Report of Mediation Conference. Volunteer mediators will be scheduled by the Arbitration Administrator as available for Small Claims and Law Magistrate calls. In cases deemed appropriate for the mediation program, the Judge will send the parties to a designated area for immediate mediation, or schedule a  mediation date. At this point, the volunteer mediators will conduct settlement discussions. The mediator shall at all times be in control of the mediation and the procedures to be followed in mediation. Counsel shall be permitted to communicate privately with their clients. The mediator may meet and consult privately with either party and his representative during the mediation process. Upon completion of the mediation session, the mediator shall immediately send the parties back to the courtroom and file with the Court a report in a form prescribed by the Chief Judge, as to whether or not an agreement was reached by the parties. The report shall be signed by the mediator and shall designate, “full agreement,” “partial agreement,” “no agreement”, or a determination by the mediator that an agreement on voluntary terms is unlikely to be reached by prolonging the negotiations. A copy of the report must be given to the parties and to the Arbitration Center.

E. Discovery. If and to the extent the Court has previously authorized Discovery, Discovery may proceed during the mediation process.

F. Mediator Appointment, Training, Qualifications, Compensation. The approved list of Small Claims Mediators shall be maintained by the Arbitration Center. Mediators certified pursuant to the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Rules for Civil, Family or Probate Mediators are qualified to serve as Small Claims Mediators and shall be automatically included on the approved list. To otherwise qualify for inclusion on the approved list of Small Claims Mediators, a volunteer must be a member of the Lake County Bar Association and must have completed basic training to act as a Small Claims Mediator. The training may be conducted by one of the mediators certified pursuant to the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Rules for Civil, Family or Probate Mediators. When in the judgment of the trainer the candidate is qualified, he or she will present the name of the trainee to the Supervising Judge for Mediation for final approval. This program is offered as a service to the litigants. Small Claims Mediators are volunteers who shall not be compensated.

G. Forms and Finalization of Agreement/Mechanism for Reporting.  Mediation forms will include a “Confidentiality Agreement,” a form “Agreement” to be filed in the event that a settlement agreement is reached and two form Court Orders. One form Court Order will dismiss the case with prejudice, but allow the Court to retain jurisdiction for a period of time to enforce the settlement. The second form Order will acknowledge that the parties did not settle the case at mediation and will contain a blank space for the Judge to fill in a trial date. The Clerk of the Circuit Court shall keep and maintain compiled statistics and records on all cases referred to mediation and shall file reports with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, as directed by the Chief Judge. 

H. Absence of a Party and Sanctions. Parties are required to participate in good faith and must be present at all scheduled mediation sessions.

1. All parties, attorneys, representatives with settlement authority and other individuals necessary to facilitate settlement of the dispute shall be present at the mediation conference unless excused by Court Order. A party is deemed to appear at a mediation conference if the following persons are physically present:

a. The party or its representitive having full authority to settle without further consultation; and,

b. The party’s counsel of record if any.

2. Upon Motion, the Court may impose appropriate sanctions against any party or attorney who fails to comply with this Rule.

I. Statistics and Reporting. Commencing with formal adoption, approval and implementation of these Rules, the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court will note the occurrence and results of any mediation into the appropriate court record and disperse copies of referrals and orders to the Arbitration Administrator. The Arbitration Administrator will maintain statistics indicating the number of cases sent to mediation and the results of the mediation process. These statistics will be reviewed periodically by the Judge(s) presiding over Small Claims and Law Magistrate matters to determine the effectiveness of the program.

J. Termination or Suspension of Program. The Chief Judge or the Supervising Judge for Mediation of Civil Cases may, at any time, suspend or discontinue this program should he or she feel it is no longer effective or necessary.

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