Sunday, June 25, 2017 01:57

Florida Small Claims Court

What is Small Claims Court?

Small claims court is subset of county court in the Florida court system that is for disputes that do not exceed $5,000 in damages (also known as the amount in controversy), excluding court costs, interest and/or attorney’s fees.  Small claims court has less formal and stringent rules than county court (amount in controversy is does not exceed $15,000) and circuit courts (amount in controversy exceeds $15,000).  The Small Claims Rules (pdf) serve to make the small claims court process simpler, speedier and more informal than the regular civil court process.  A basic goal of the small claims process is to enable any person or business to resolve their small civil disputes through the court system without having to go through formal and complex court procedures.

 Who may Bring a Claim (Sue) in Small Claims Court?

Any person eighteen (18) years of age or older may file a small claims lawsuit. A minor must have a parent or legal guardian file on his/her behalf.  A business, whether owned by an individual, a partnership or a corporation, may also file a lawsuit in small claims.

 Who Can Be Sued in Small Claims Court?

A claim can be brought against either an individual or a business.

 Where Must a Small Claims Suit be Filed?

Generally, small claims actions may be brought only in the county where the defendant resides, where the cause of action occurred, where the contract was entered into or where it requires enforcement, where a defendant resides, where payment is due, or where the property involved is located.

 When To Use Small Claims Court?

To seek the return of property, to recover money for vehicle damage related to auto accidents, to seek unpaid rent, to recover a security deposit, to recover damages to property, to receive payment for work done or services provided, to receive payment for goods sold, to recover money lent, to recover money owed from a promissory note, or various other causes.

 Is an Attorney Needed in Small Claims Court?

A lawyer is not required in small claims court.  However, court staff cannot provide legal advice or substantive assistance with a claim or other matters in a suit, so it can be very helpful to hire or consult with an attorney regarding the process, your rights, and claims/defenses.

 How Much Does it Cost to File a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court?

Filing fees for small claims actions are determined by law, and are subject to change. A current schedule of service charges is available on your local Clerk of Court’s office.  The filing fees vary depending on the amount of the claim.

Additional fees are required to serve the parties in the suit. A private process server can be hired to have the summons served or send it via certified mail.  If the Sheriff of another county is needed to serve the notice, the various requirements and the address to which the notice should be sent should be checked.  Certified mail service cannot be used as method of service outside the state of Florida.  However, a post office box, if it is within the State of Florida, can be used to serve via certified mail.

 Should I File a Claim in Small Claims Court?

This is a complicated question that can best be answered by consultation with an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida taking into account the various legal, business, and financial implications of a suit.

If you need assistance understanding your rights or simply wish to talk more about Small Claims Court, please contact The Gordon Law Firm in Oldsmar, Florida.  We offer services ranging from acting as an adviser to providing full representation in a Small Claims Matter.  The Gordon Law Firm serves all of Pinellas County including Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Pasco County, Tampa, and the entire Tampa Bay area.  

“Making the law work for you and your business”

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