A Small Claims case is a legal action filed in county court to settle minor legal disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is $5,000 or less, excluding costs, interest, and attorney fees. Because Small Claims court is considered a "people's court," it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a claim. Forms to file a small claim case are available at the County Civil Department at the Clerk's Office and here on our website. Attorneys are not precluded from this court, but are not required.
The Statement of Claim form is available at the Clerk's Office or on this website. If the form is signed outside of our office, it needs to be notarized. It can also be signed in the presence of a Deputy Clerk here at the Clerk's Office.
The case is filed in the county in which the incident took place. If the case is filed in the wrong county, the Defendant may ask the court to change the venue to the proper county.
When filing a Small Claims case, you need to be certain that you are suing the proper party. If you are suing a business, you should contact the Secretary of State at (850) 488-9000 or visit www.sunbiz.org
to retrieve the information needed to have your summons served on the Registered Agent of the corporation. If you have any attachments to prove your claim, you must provide the Court with one copy for the file and one copy to be served on each defendant.
You can have your summons served by the Sheriff, a process server, or by certified mail. Certified mail can only be served within the State of Florida.
When your case is filed, you will be given a PreTrial date. All parties will be required to attend. If your defendant is not served, your case will not go to court and you will have to file a request for the Clerk to prepare a new summons for service.
If there is service on your defendant, your case will go to a PreTrial Mediation Conference. The Judge will call your case and if the Plaintiff does not appear, the case will be dismissed. If the Defendant does not appear and the Plaintiff is present, a Default Judgment may be entered. If both parties are present, the Judge will ask the defendant to admit or deny the claim. If the defendant admits the claim, a Judgment based on this admission may be entered. If the Defendant denies the claim, they will be ordered to mediate at that time. If they are unable to come to a resolution with a mediator, a final hearing will be set for the Judge to resolve the issue.
The court does not collect the Judgment for you. There is an information sheet you can obtain from the Clerk's office that gives you a few options on how to collect on the Judgment, however, everything is not explained to you in that form, so you may want to contact an attorney for guidance.
If you and the other party reach a settlement, the Clerk's office must be notified in writing.