Kentucky Court Records
What are Kentucky Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?
Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits in Kentucky are civil lawsuits addressed in the district court or circuit court of the state court system. The small claims division of the district court addresses small claims cases through an expedited process because they are usually uncomplicated and straightforward. They settle monetary and personal property disputes of up to $2500 or less in controversy. Often, individuals usually file small claims cases against another individual when there’s been a disagreement in the terms of a contract. In contrast, a group of wronged individuals files class-action lawsuits against a single defendant (usually a large corporation, company, or business), whose actions have caused them to incur some losses or damages.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Kentucky?
A class-action lawsuit in Kentucky allows a group of individuals with similar or identical legal claims to take legal action against an organization or entity at the same time. This type of lawsuit is usually employed when individual or single party lawsuits against an entity are illogical and uneconomical despite having legal and factual issues. Therefore, it is a type of litigation that allows parties that have been wronged in similar ways to seek justice and compensation. Concisely, it helps parties with relatively small claims to recover losses that would have been impossible outside the class action.
Typically, a representative or class proponent represents the group in a class action. Other individuals with similar claims join the lawsuit and create a class. After the case is resolved, the reward is shared among every member of the class. However, in Kentucky, the court needs to certify the group of people as a class before the class action litigation can proceed.
The most common class-action lawsuits in the state usually include:
- Claims of discrimination against age, race, sex, or age
- Employee wage and benefit claims
- Consumer fraud claims
- Defective product claims
- Shareholder class actions
- Intellectual property claims, etc.
How do I File a Claim in a Kentucky Small Claims Court?
Before filing a small claims court case, the parties in the case should endeavor to settle the dispute out of court. An out-of-court settlement is usually less expensive and faster than a court settlement. If the parties agree, they must draft and sign a valid and legally binding agreement.
Notwithstanding, a small claims lawsuit becomes necessary when the parties cannot settle their differences on their own.
Before filing the case, the plaintiff must ensure that the defendant is not “judgment proof.” The case will likely be successful only if the defendant can pay the damages being sought. If the individual lacks enough income or property to make the payment, the plaintiff may win the case but cannot collect judgment.
In Kentucky, plaintiffs are advised to immediately file their suit if they determine that an agreement cannot be reached. The individual has to file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations to avoid having the case dismissed. The period of limitation varies with the type of claim. For oral contracts, the claim must be filed within five years from the time the contract was made, 15 years for written contracts, and one year for some personal injury claims.
The plaintiff starts the lawsuit by filing a legal complaint with the Court Clerk. This complaint may be filed in the county where the defendant lives or works, where the injury occurred, or where the breaching party should have performed their contractual obligations.
The legal complaint must explain the disagreement with adequate details and no guesses. The maximum amount of money in dispute for a small claims case is $2500, including the extra costs incurred due to the defendant’s actions. Along with the damages caused and losses incurred, the complaint must also contain proof that the claims are authentic and valid.
The complaint is officially filed by completing an AOC Form 175-Small Claims Complaint, which is obtainable from the court clerk and can also be completed online. On this form, the plaintiff must state the full name and address of the defendant. If the lawsuit is against a business, the plaintiff can confirm the formal business name and determine who should receive the summons by contacting the Secretary of State’s Office (502) 564–7330.
After completing the complaint form, it should be filed with the court clerk of the applicable court with the required filing fee. The clerk will then issue a summons to notify the defendant of the lawsuit. This summons must be served on the defendant along with a copy of the complaint. The individual or entity can be served personally or via certified mail for a small fee.
The plaintiff is advised to record all costs incurred during the filing process because they may be included in the judgment. After the service, the hearing date will be set within 20 to 40 days from the date the defendant receives the summons.
To prepare for the hearing, the plaintiff may gather admissible facts, evidence and witnesses to be presented before the court logically. Depending on the type of case, the plaintiff may present original copies of contracts, receipts, checks, estimates, police reports, photographs, and other evidence to prove the case further.
In some cases, the defendant and the plaintiff may reach an agreement before trial. In this situation, they may obtain, complete, and sign the AOC Form 199-Small Claims Settlement Agreement. This will also be filed along with all other documents in the case for court approval. If the judge approves the settlement agreement, it becomes legally enforceable.
If either party disagrees with the judge’s decision, they can appeal the case. The individual or entity must file a Notice of Appeal to appeal the case, and a Statement of Appeal within 30 days of filing the notice. A copy of this file should be delivered to the opposing party.
The Statement of Appeal must contain the following information:
- A request for an oral argument if the party wants the Circuit Judge to hear the appeal in person, as opposed to submitting a written argument.
- Legal issues that require the judge’s consideration.
- An accurate and concise summary of the evidence presented in the initial case
- Reasons for believing the District Judge made an error in the judgment
- A statement of the relief or compensation that the party is entitled
During appeal hearings, the court will not re-hear the case. Instead, the Circuit Judge will review the initial case records to determine if the case was fair.
Appeals are complicated, and there are no forms available for the notice of appeal and statement of appeal. Hence, any entity seeking to appeal a case is advised to seek legal advice and assistance.
Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?
Small claims cases are an inexpensive way and fast means of resolving legal cases. Additionally, because they are conducted informally, they provide the obvious benefit of avoiding attorney legal fees. This is because the Kentucky judiciary has simplified the small claims court process to ensure that citizens can navigate the system regardless of if they have legal education or not.
As a result, lawyers are not a necessity in Kentucky small claims lawsuits. However, parties are advised to seek legal advice when involved in a case to avoid unnecessary complications in a relatively simple case.
How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Kentucky?
Class action lawsuits are similar to small claims lawsuits because they are civil lawsuits that seek to recover losses or damages incurred due to an individual or entity’s actions. However, a class action lawsuit is a more economical option that involves seeking compensation for more than one injured party at once. Consequently, not all legal disputes can be addressed using class action.
Class action lawsuits are typically initiated by a few individuals that serve as the representatives of the entire class of plaintiffs. Also, they are usually represented by a court accredited firm or group of firms.
According to Kentucky Court rules, four conditions must be satisfied to certify a class action:
- The class has common questions of law or fact
- The defenses of the class proponents or representative parties are typical of the claims and defenses of the class
- The class proponents will fairly and efficiently protect the class’ interests.
- Due to the number of members, It is more practical and beneficial to have a class action rather than individual lawsuits.
Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?
Generally, class action lawsuits and small claims lawsuits do not apply to all legal disputes. Hence, the level of success of either legal action is mainly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the case.
Typically, in cases where the legal dispute is a simple disagreement between two individuals, a small claims case is a better option than a class action lawsuit. However, if the case is between a wronged individual and a large corporation, a class action lawsuit is advised. The tendency of winning a small claims lawsuit against such a corporation or entity may be slim because the claim may be relatively small, and the cost of suing the corporation might be high. A concrete class-action lawsuit with other wronged individuals with identical claims against one large entity is likely to be more successful in such cases. However, due to more plaintiffs and the large sum of money involved than in small claims cases, class action lawsuits can take years to litigate.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the document or person involved
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.
What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Kentucky?
In every Kentucky county, the Small Claims Division of District Court settles legal disputes involving money or personal property valued at $2,500 or less. The common small claims cases heard in the state usually involve two people in a simple dispute. These kinds of cases include:
- Unpaid bills
- Overcharges for services
- Personal injuries
- Property damage
- Product liability or compensation for defective product
- Property disputes involving security deposits, rent arrears, unlawful eviction notices, etc.