Written by attorney Keith Patrick Ligori

How to File Suit in Small Claims Court

A small court claim is a dispute between two parties that does not exceed $5,000. One must be 18 years of age or older, or else a parent must file on the claimaints behalf.

The person who brings the claim is the plaintiff, and the person filed against is the defendant. You must file suit where the defendant lives, or where the incident took place.

You can sue an idividual, a business or a corporation. Say for instance you sue another person, you would become the plaintiff and they become the defendant. When suing a corporation, you need the name of the corporation, as well as the name and title of an officer. Similarly, if you sue a business you need the name of the buisness and the name of the owner. This information can be located on the Secretary of State's website

Furthermore, in order for a defendant to be served, you must provide an address. Your claim should be signed before a notary or deputy clerk. If a deputy clerk witnesses your signuature you'll beed to provide a valid picture identification and a fee will be charged.

What do you need for filing a small claim?

  1. One Origional Summons
  2. One Origional Statement of Claims
  3. One Self-addressed Stamped Envelope (if you mail the documents to the Clerk's Office)
  4. Any Attachement or Exhibits in Support of the Statements of Claims

Service of Summons

A Pre-Trial summoms and copy of the claim must be legally served on each defendant. How can this be done?

Pesronal service by the Sheriff of proccess server in the county where the defendant lives. If requested, the Clerk will forward the summons for you to the Hillsborough County Sheriff. You'll need to bring a money order or a cashier's check payable to the Sheriff. To avoid a service delay, you can take the summons to the Sheriff's office.

Another option is to send it certified mail. This can only be done when the defendant resides within the State of Florida and the mail is addressed to the defendant's home address or post office box. Fees are payable to the Clerk of Circuit Court and may be included with the filing fees. Service by certified mail is also valid for a corporation. The letter must be addressed to the corporation in care of an officer or a registered agent..

Remember that the defendant must be served before the pre-trial date. If you have the Sheriff of Hillsborough County servet the summons, you can be notified if you complete the postcard provided by the Sheriff's department and paid the postage. The postcard needs to be sumbitted with the summons to the Sheriff's department. If you dont' receieve notification that the defendant has been served, contact the Clerk's office at (813)-276-8100, extension 4362 on the day before the scheduled pre-trial.

What Do You Need For Service of Small Claims?

  1. Two Copies of the Summons Per Defendant
  2. One Copy of the Statement of Claims per Defendant
  3. One Copy of Any Attachement of the Statement of Claim Per Defendant

Pre-Trial Hearing

Usually the Pre-Trial hearing is scheduled 30-50 days after the case is filed. The Pre-Trial hearing is held for the defendant to admit or deny the claim. Both the plaintiff and the defendant must appear at the date and time stated on the summons.

If the plaintiff doesn't appear, the Court can dismiss the claim and the filing fee would be forfeited. However, if the defendant doesn't appear, the court may award a judgment to the plaintiff. If the defendant appears and denies the claim, the Court may either set the case for final hearing or send the case to Meditation.

In the case that you are awarded a judgment and payment has not been made by the judgment debtor, you may want to research the Florida Statues to find methods to collect the judgment. Florida Statutes 55 is a good place to start. Another option, of course, is to contact an attorney with any questions.

Additional resources provided by the author

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Hillsborough County Clerk of Court

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