Small Claims Court

 

What is Small Claims Court?

Small Claims Court handles Civil cases asking for $7,500.00 or less. Small Claims Court is designed to be simple, quick, and cost less than a regular Civil lawsuit.

In Small Claims Court there are:

  • No lawyers
  • No rules of evidence
  • No juries

If you are suing then you are the plaintiff[G]. If you are being sued then you are the defendant[G]. Both the plaintiff and defendant can be called claimants[G] or parties[G].


Who can sue in Small Claims Court?

In order to sue in Small Claims Court you must be:

  • At least 18 years old or legally emancipated[G]
  • Mentally competent to file or defend a case in Small Claims Court

Almost anyone can sue or be sued in Small Claims Court:

  • You can sue another person or a business
  • A business can sue a person or another business

But these types of cases are not allowed in Small Claims Court:

  • If your case would be against a federal agency
  • Collection agencies and insurance companies cannot sue in Small Claims Court for their clients

How much money can you ask for?

The maximum amount that you can claim depends on who you are and who you are suing:

You are:

You can sue for up to:

An Individual or Sole Proprietor

$7,500.00

A Corporation or Business

$5,000.00

Exceptions to these amounts are:

You are:

The defendant is a guarantor[G] who:

You can sue for up to:

An Individual or Sole Proprietor

Charged a fee for surety[G] services

$6,500.00

An Individual or Sole Proprietor

Did not charge a fee for surety services

$2,500.00

A Corporation or Business

Charged a fee for surety services

$4,000.00

If you have a claim greater than these amounts, you may sue in the Civil division or you may sue in the Small Claims Court. If you chose the Small Claims Court, you give up your right to the amount that is greater then the maximum amounts shown above. Just remember that if you waive[G] the rest of your claim your right to collect the original amount is lost forever.
You may only file 2 cases each year for more than $2,500.00.


Can someone else represent me?

If you are under 18 or have been declared mentally incompetent by a court you may be represented by a guardian ad litem[G]. If you are a minor, this person is usually a parent. If the court decides that you are unable to properly present your claim or defense[G] for any reason, the court may allow another person to help you. The person who helps you cannot be an attorney.

You usually cannot send anyone else to represent you in court if you are involved in a Small Claims case. There are a few exceptions to the rule that you must represent yourself.

If you are:

You may be represented by:

Business Owner

A regular employee if the claim can be proved by account information and the employee has knowledge of the account

Partnership

One of the partners

Corporation

An employee, officer, or director if they have not been hired just to represent the corporation in court

Military Service Member

Another person. You will need to submit declarations to support your claim or defense and meet the following requirements:

  • You are serving on active duty in the armed forces
  • Were assigned to your duty station after case was started
  • Your assignment is for more than 6 months

Can a lawyer come to court with me?

You cannot have a lawyer to represent you in court. A lawyer may be able to advise and assist you before or after filing your claim. You may decide to talk to a lawyer if you feel it would be cost-effective and after considering the amount of the claim and the kinds of issues involved. Except in rare instances, fees charged by the lawyer for private assistance are not recoverable as court costs[G] or damages[G].


What kinds of cases go to Small Claims Court?

There are many kinds of cases that can be filed in Small Claims Court. Some examples are:

  • Your former landlord refuses to return your security deposit
  • Someone dents your car and refuses to pay for repairs
  • A store refuses to fix or replace your new TV that does not work
  • Your tenant caused damage to an apartment that cost more than the security deposit
  • You were cheated when you bought a car and want your money back
  • A friend asked for a loan and refuses to pay you back

What are the time limits to file a claim?

Most claims must be filed within a set time limit or statute of limitations[G]. Here are some examples of various statutes of limitations:

You are suing because:

You have this long to file:

You got hurt

2 years from the date of the injury or the date it is discovered. A minor has 2 years from his or her 18th birthday to file a case.

A spoken agreement was broken

2 years to file after the agreement was broken.

A written agreement was broken

3 years to file after your property was damaged.

You lost money because someone lied to you or tricked you on purpose

3 years to file after you find out about the fraud[G].

It's not easy to figure out if it's too late to file. If you're not sure, file your case and let the judge decide.

 
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