A Full Guide to Small Claims Court

What is Small Claims Court?

Small-claims court is a legal venue, which possesses limited jurisdiction to hear and observe civil cases between private litigants. Those courts authorized to hear small claims cases may also possess other jurisdictional functions, and the name by which such a venue is known will also vary based on jurisdiction; for example, a small claims court may also be referred to as a magistrate’s court or a county court.

Small claims courts typically administer legal hearings for cases that encompass spall private disputes in which large amounts of money are not at stake. Typically in the United States, the maximum legal battle—in regards to the amount of money being litigated over—in a small claims court is $15,000. This figure places a cap on the maximum monetary limit to the amount of judgments the small claims court can award to a litigating party. 

The routine cases that a small claims court resides over will typically encompass financial disputes between landlords and tenants, and those issues that arise from the routine attempts to collect small debts from a private party. Issues regarding family problems or any cases that involve violence or the presence of physical harm will not be heard in a small-claims court. 
The only legal issues that a small claims court presides over are financial battles between private parties. The term ‘financial battle’ also encompasses issues where a private party hires a company or entity for the delivery of a distinct service; if the service is not delivered as expected or if there is a problem with the contract, the issue may be heard in a small claims court.

When a plaintiff sues a defendant in a small claims court, the individual or entity will typically waive any right to claim more than the court can award. In addition to a financial cap, the rules of civil procedure, as well as the delivery and intricacies involved with the presence of evidence are typically simplified in order to make the legal procedures economical. 

As a result of this simplification, the majority of cases in small claims court is presented and conducted by the private parties involved in the case—rarely are legal professionals incorporated into a small claims court. That being said, administrative rules will fluctuate based on jurisdiction; in some areas, for instance, the small claims court will require the defending party to be represented by a lawyer—this requirement is typically placed on corporations.

Elaborate and expensive court procedures such as depositions and interrogatories are usually not allowed in a small claims court. Furthermore, a trial by jury is seldom conducted in a small claims court. To make things as practical and speedy as possible, the majority of legal matters filed in a small claims court are immediately set for trial. 

Winning a legal battle in a small claims court does not guarantee payment in recompense of the plaintiff’s damages. The responsibility to satisfy payment, although legally enforced, is still up to the losing party. As a result, the judgment may also be collected through liens and wage garnishments. 

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