Before you file a small claims suit, consider the time, effort and expense required to assert your claim. Make sure that you have some proof of the debt such as a receipt, note, bill of sale, warranty or a witness. If at all possible, try to settle your dispute out of court. When a reasonable agreement can't be reached, a claim may be filed.
The amount owed or dollar value of property may not exceed the maximum amount of $2,700. Only an individual who is directly involved with the transaction may pursue a small claims action.
To start a small claim, you must file a claim form with the clerk of the county court. The form is available at the county court or you can find it online.
The following information is required on the form:
- Your name, address and telephone number
- The address where the defendant can be served
- The amount of money the defendant owes you
- A statement about why the defendant owes you money
The plaintiff must know the defendant¿s proper name and whether the defendant is an individual, a corporation, a partnership or other legal entity. If the defendant is a corporation, partnership or any other organization, you must identify the person who is authorized to receive legal papers.
If you don't know whether the business is a corporation, you may contact the Secretary of State at 402-471-4079 and ask for the name of the registered agent or officers.
Certain Military Personnel Exempt
A small claim can't be filed against certain military personnel. For a definition of exempt individuals see the Soldier's Relief Act.
The plaintiff pays a filing fee of $23 in advance. The plaintiff also pays the cost of serving the notice on the defendant. If the plaintiff wins, these costs are added to the judgment which the defendant must pay.
Where to File
You must file small claims actions in the county where the defendant or defendant¿s agent resides or is doing business or in the county in which the dispute arose.
Dismissal of Claim
If you file in the wrong court, fail to properly identify the defendant or fail to obtain proper service on the defendant, your case will be dismissed and you will lose the filing fees and prepaid costs.
Signing and Filing Claim Form
The plaintiff fills out the claim form and signs it in the presence of a court clerk or notary. The clerk sets a date for trial and arranges for notice to the defendant. The claim form may be filed in person or by mail.
Assignment of Case Number
Once you file your paperwork with the court, your case will be assigned a case number. This number must be on all documents filed with the court.
Number of Claims
Except for a merchant who is claiming a loss due to shoplifting, a party is limited to filing no more than two small claims within any calendar week and no more than ten claims in any calendar year.
Notice to Defendant
The defendant must be properly served with a copy of the claim. The plaintiff decides how the notice will be served. The notice to the defendant may be delivered by the sheriff or constable or sent by certified mail.
Proof of Notice
After the defendant has been served, the court must receive proof of service.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What is "service" and how is it done?
- Can an attorney assist me with filling out my claim forms?
- What should I do if I can't make the court date?