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 less than $5,000, excluding costs, interest, and attorney fees. Small Claims court is considered a “people’s court,” so it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a claim, but Attorneys are not precluded from this court. Forms to file a small claim case are available at the County Civil Department at the Clerk’s Office.
The Statement of Claim form is available at the Clerk’s Office. 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. This form will tell the other party why you are suing and the amount of the claim.
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 Website at 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. Filing fees are set by Florida Statute and are subject to change by legislative action.
Service of Process
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. You cannot have a court hearing until the person or business you are suing is served. You must know the correct name of the person, business, or corporation you are suing as well as their address and phone number, if possible. If the defendant is not served, you may attempt to service again when you have located a new address.
- Certified Mail – Actual postal cost per defendant who must reside in Florida.
- Sheriff’s Service – $40.00 per defendant for Florida residents. Out of state Sheriff’s departments may charge a different fee. You are required to have a money order or business check made payable to the Sheriff of the County where the resident resides.
- Process Server – Cost varies among process servers. You are required to have a money order or business check made payable to the process server, and their mailing address.
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.
Both parties must appear unless permission is granted by the County Judge to appear by telephone. 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 the dispute cannot be settled at the pretrial conference, a trial date will be scheduled by the Court
The presiding Judge will be the Judge and the Jury at the Trial.
Bring witnesses to the Trial only, not to the Pre Trial. If a witness will not appear and testify voluntarily, you may request the Clerk’s office to prepare and issue a subpoena. There is a $7.00 service charge for issuance, and the Sheriff charges a service fee of $40.00.
The court does not collect the Judgment for you. You may want to contact an attorney for guidance on how to collect on a Judgment.
If you and the other party reach a settlement, the Clerk’s office must be notified in writing.
Satisfaction of Judgment
When the Judgment is paid in full, you are required to furnish the defendant a Satisfaction of Judgment. A copy of the Satisfaction of Judgment should be furnished to the Clerk’s Office Civil Division. The Satisfaction must be signed in the presence of a notary. The Defendant should then have the original Satisfaction of Judgment recorded in the Recording Department of the Clerk’s Office to remove any Liens placed against him/her.