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Small Claims

Depending on state law, Small Claims Records are limited to claims for damages ranging from $2,500 to $15,000. The types of cases tried in small claims courts are also limited, and include damages from fender benders, disputes over security deposits, and claims based on bad checks. Since the procedures in Small Claims are simpler than in other courts, persons usually can file and present their cases relatively quickly and inexpensively, and often without an attorney. Magistrates (specially appointed lawyers) hear the cases in those Small Claim Courts.

A complaint must be filed in the Office of the Special Civil Part of the county where at least one defendant lives or where the defendant's business is located. To sue in Small Claims, a person must be 18 years of age or older. Small Claims Court forms are available from the Clerk of the Special Civil Part in the county in which the case will be filed or more easily, they are readily accessible and can be downloaded online. The cost for filing Small Claims Court Record is $15 for one defendant, $2 for each additional defendant.

Read Small Claims Court Rules and Regulations

Small Claims is one of the three sections of the Superior Court's Special Civil Part. The other two sections are Landlord/Tenant and regular Special Civil Part. Small Claims handles record cases in which the demand is not more than $3,000 or $5,000 if the demand is for the return of a tenant's security deposit. These are the money limits of Small Claims. If the amount of money you are trying to recover is more than the money limits, but less than $15,000, your case should be filed in the regular Special Civil Part. Cases in which damages are more than $15,000 must be filed in the Law Division of the Superior Court.

The typical Small Claims Court Rules includes filing for breach of a written or oral contract, return of money used as a down payment, property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident, damage to or loss of property, consumer complaints for defective merchandise or faulty workmanship, payment for work performed, claims based on bad checks, claims for back rent and Return of a tenant's security deposit.

As a matter of numbers, the Small Claims Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York receives around 40,000 cases per year.

In a certain case in 2006, a man named Steve sued Fred Joseph of US Record Search (an agency of fraud record search and information) in his local small claims court and won $2,500 on his $495 loss. Even though he only lost $495, he sued for $7,500 for fraud. The judge awarded him $2,500 and US Record Search appealed. At the trial, they produced no evidence that they did anything to do his search. They produced no evidence that they paid "the banking system" anything. Later, the judge reduced the judgment to $625 saying the appellant provided insufficient evidence that there was fraud.