This a very brief overview of the Small Claims Court process in Dane County, Wisconsin. For any civil lawsuits that involve dollar amounts of $10,000.00 or less, or tort/personal injury actions where the amount claimed is $5,000.00 or less, the Small Claims Court has jurisdiction and your civil lawsuit must be filed in Small Claims Court.
To sue a person in Small Claims Court, you must fill out and sign a Small Claims Court Summons and Petition. This is a standard form that is available at the courthouse or online through the Dane County Clerk of Court website. Once the Summons and Complaint is filled out and signed, you must file it with the Clerk of Court and pay the current filing fee. Service of the Summons and Petition must then be made upon the defendant.
After the defendant has been served, the defendant has until the Answer date set forth on the Summons and Complaint to respond to the allegations in your Summons and Complaint. If the defendant does not respond and contest the Complaint, then you will be granted a Default Judgment. If the defendant does respond and contest the allegations in your Complaint by the date set forth on the Summons and Complaint, then the court will schedule a hearing before a Court Commissioner at the Dane County Courthouse.
This hearing will occur in one of the small courtrooms on the 2nd floor of the Dane County Courthouse. The hearing is where you present your evidence to support the allegations made in your complaint. Your evidence will normally include your testimony, testimony of other witnesses you have to support your case, and documents which support your case. The defendant will also have an opportunity to dispute your allegations and present evidence.
At the end of the hearing and after hearing the evidence, the Court Commissioner will give you a decision and judgment either in your favor or in the defendant’s favor.
After the Court Commissioner’s decision, if either you or the defendant don’t like the ruling by the court, then either one of you can request what is called a “De Novo” hearing before a Circuit Court Judge, which means that you have to do hearing all over again. At this De Novo hearing, the Circuit Court Judge will hear all of the evidence again like the first hearing never happened and give a new decision and order. The Circuit Judge’s decision could be the same or very different from the decision of the Court Commissioner.