Understanding Small Claims Court

July 19, 2019

            A small claims case is suit brought to recover money, personal property, or for civil penalties.  Some examples include, but are not limited to, claims involving debts, property damage, actions against a landlord for failure to make necessary repairs, and eviction actions.  The claim can be for no more than $10,000, including attorney fees, if any.  Generally, these cases are filed in the Justice of the Peace court in the county and precinct either where the defendant lives, where the incidents occurred that gave rise to the claim, or where the property is located.

            When filing a petition, the plaintiff must request that a citation be issued, ordering the defendant to answer the suit.  The citation and a copy of the petition must be personally served on the defendant, usually by either a sheriff or constable, or a process server.  The defendant must file an answer with the court and the deadline for filing such answer is contained within the citation.  It is very important to answer a lawsuit, as failure to do so may result in a default judgment against the defendant.

            While small claims court may seem less formal than the county court at law, district, state or other higher courts, nearly all the standard procedures and rules of evidence still apply.  The case can be heard by a judge or a jury, evidence is presented and witnesses may testify.  However, judges may be lenient with the rules of evidence when the parties do not have attorneys.  Hiring an attorney can give you a substantial advantage over an unrepresented opponent.

            See us at Kliem & Balusek to discuss your rights and remedies in small claims matters.  Remember Kliem & Balusek, “Not just a law firm.   A relationship.”