6/25/2017

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Small Claims Court

What you need to know about filing a small claims action.

Small claims court is part of the judicial system that hears and rules on cases in which a person or business (plaintiff) sues another person or business (defendant) for damages up to a specified dollar amount. The final decision is usually made by the judge who presides over the case.

The maximum amount a plaintiff can sue for in small claims court is set by individual state laws (See chart below).It is important that you know the maximum amount you can sue for in your state. It is also important to understand that the maximum amount authorized by individual states may change at any given time.

Small claims court is designed to give people the chance to settle disputes at minimal costs. This is done by letting a plaintiff and the defendant represent themselves in court. Depositions and other expensive procedures are generally not allowed in small claims court.

In many states, attorneys are allowed to represent their clients in small claims court. In other words, you can represent yourself and save money by not hiring an attorney or you can hire an attorney to represent you if you so desire. The cost of an attorney falls on the party who hires him.

The function of a small claims court is to try individual cases in a speedy and inexpensive manner. By using a small-claims court to settle a dispute, the plaintiff, in most cases, waives all rights to claim more than the court can legally award in that particular state.

In most states, anyone over eighteen years of age can file an action in small claims court. If the plaintiff is younger than eighteen, a parent or a guardian may file the claim for them.

Small claims court limits by state:

State

Dollar Limit

Alabama

$3,000

Alaska

$10,000

Arizona

$2,500

Arkansas

$5,000

California

$10,000 (effective January 1, 2012), except that a plaintiff may not file a claim over $2,500 more than twice a year. Limit for local public entity or for businesses is $5,000. $6,500 is the limit in suits by an individual against a guarantor that charges for its guarantor or surety services.

Colorado

$7,500

Connecticut

$5,000 (except in landlord-tenant security deposit claims).

Delaware

$15,000

District of Columbia

$5,000

Florida

$5,000

Georgia

$15,000 (no limit in eviction cases).

Hawaii

$5,000; no limit in landlord-tenant residential security deposit cases.  For return of leased or rented personal property, the property must not be worth more than $5,000.

Idaho

$5,000

Illinois

$10,000

Indiana

$6,000

Iowa

$5,000

Kansas

$4,000

Kentucky

$2,500

Louisiana

$3,000 (city court); $5,000 (justice of the peace, but no limit on eviction cases).

Maine

$6,000

Maryland

$5,000

Massachusetts

$7,000; no limit for property damage caused by motor vehicle.

Michigan

$3,000

Minnesota

$7,500 ($4,000 for claims involving consumer credit transactions, $15,000 for claims involving money or personal property subject to criminal forfeiture)

Mississippi

$3,500

Missouri

$5,000

Montana

$7,000

Nebraska

$3,500 from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015  (adjusted every five years based on the Consumer Price index)

Nevada

$7,500

New Hampshire

$7,500

New Jersey

$3,000 ($5,000 for claims relating to security deposits); certain landlord-tenant suits cannot be brought

New Mexico

$10,000

New York

$5,000 ($3,000 in town and village courts)

North Carolina

$5,000

North Dakota

$10,000

Ohio

$3,000

Oklahoma

$6,000

Oregon

$7,500

Pennsylvania

$12,000

Rhode Island

$2,500

South Carolina

$7,500

South Dakota

$12,000

Tennessee

$25,000; no limit in eviction suits or suits to recover personal property

Texas

$10,000

Utah

$10,000

Vermont

$5,000

Virginia

$5,000

Washington

$5,000

West Virginia

$5,000

Wisconsin

$10,000; no limit in eviction suits

Wyoming

$6,000

The maximum amount that can be filed in a small claims suit in your state may change at any time. You should check your state's website for any updates and changes.

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