Small Claims

Small Claims

For help with filing your small claims case

What Is Small Claims Court?

Small claims court is a special court where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively. In small claims court, the rules are simplified and the hearing is informal. Attorneys are generally not allowed. The person who files the claim is called the plaintiff. The person against whom the claim is filed against is called the defendant. They are also called claimants or parties. You don't need to be a United States citizen to file or defend a case in small claims court. If you are a non-English speaker, see Making the Best of Your Day in Court section for information on an interpreter.

In general, claims are limited to disputes up to $10,000.

The fee for filing in small claims court depends on the amount of the claim.

Since the limits on amounts of claims and filing fees may be changed by legislative action, you should check with your local small claims adviser or small claims clerk to determine the current limits on claims and filing fees. You may also consult with your own attorney if you wish.

Small claims courts can order a defendant to do something, as long as a claim for money is also part of the lawsuit. If you are suing to get back the lawn mower you loaned to a neighbor, for instance, the court can order the return of the mower, or payment for the mower if it is not returned.

Examples of other disputes that might be resolved in small claims court are:

  • Your former landlord refuses to return the security deposit you paid.
  • Someone dents your car's fender and refuses to pay for its repair.
  • Your new TV will not work, and the store refuses to fix it or replace it.
  • Your tenant caused damage to the apartment in an amount that exceeded the security deposit. (Note: You can't file an eviction action in small claims court.)
  • You were defrauded in the purchase of a car, and desire to cancel the purchase and get back the amount of your down payment from the seller.
  • You lent money to a friend, and he or she refuses to re-pay it.
  • In most small claims courts, cases are heard within 30-40 days after filing the plaintiff's claim, but they are never set for earlier than 20 days or more than 70 days after the claim is filed. Most cases are heard on weekdays, but some courts also schedule evening and Saturday sessions.

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