Small Claims Court (sometimes called “Peoples Court”) provides expeditious, informal and inexpensive adjudication of small debts. Proceedings are very informal with parties normally representing themselves.
- What is a Small Claims Case?
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.
No, in most cases you can represent yourself if you so desire. If the case is complex, you will be better off with legal counsel. The Clerk’s Office will provide you with the necessary forms to file a claim. General information and assistance are available at the Clerk’s office. No legal advice can be given however, if you are in need of assistance in selecting an attorney, you may call the Florida Bar’s referral service, toll-free at 1-800-342-8011.
- Who can file a Small Claims Case?
Any person(s) eighteen (18) years or older or any individual(s) doing business as a company may file a Small Claims case. A parent or guardian may file on behalf of a minor child. Each person who is a party to the claim must appear at the Clerk’s Office to sign the necessary paperwork in the presence of a Deputy Clerk, or the signatures must be notarized.
- What does it cost to file a Small Claims Case?
Filing fees for Small Claims actions are determined by Florida Statutes and are subject to change by legislative action. Fees also vary in accordance with the dollar amount of your claim and the type of action. Other fees are required for service on the parties you are suing and are dependent on the type of service you select. A current Schedule of Service Charges is available in the Clerk’s Office for your information.
- What is the Statute of Limitations?
How long you have to file a claim in court, notably Small Claims Court, varies depending on the topic and circumstances of the respective litigation. Chapter 95.11, Florida Statutes, explains that a person has between one and five years. In some cases, you can have up to 20 years to file if you are challenging a judgment or court decree.
- Where do I file a Small Claims case?
You may file a Small Claims case at the Clerk’s County Civil Division located on the second floor of the Osceola County Courthouse building, 2 Courthouse Square. The telephone number is (407) 742-3479. Business hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can file your suit in the county of your residence, but the claim may have to be filed in the county where the person you are suing lives, the county where the cause of controversy occurred, or in the county where property involved in the controversy is located.
- What information do I need to file a Small Claims case?
It is important that you file your claim against the right party. The additional time you spend researching the current name could make a difference in whether you are able to collect should a judgment be entered by the court in your favor. Copies of any contracts, notes, leases, receipts or other evidence you may have in support of your claim must be furnished for each person you are suing as well as the court. You will need to bring the originals to your first court appearance. A full explanation of your reason for the Small Claims action will be necessary. You may wish to write this explanation out at home and bring it with you when you come to the Clerk’s Office to initiate your Small Claims case.
- Are there other requirements?
When you sue someone other than an individual, there is additional information needed to complete the necessary forms. For example, are you suing an individual doing business as a company, a partnership where there are several people doing business as a company, a corporation and are they incorporated, or an insurance company? It is important for you to research this information carefully.
- What happens after I file my Small Claims case?
After you file your Small Claims case, each person or business you are suing must be served with a Summons or Notice to Appear in court on the date and time scheduled when you filed your claim. This court date will be a pre-trial conference and you should be prepared to present your case in court. At the pre-trial conference mediation is ordered if both parties to the dispute are present and unable to settle their dispute. A mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and non-adversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decision-making authority rests with the parties. If the dispute cannot be settled at the Pre-Trial Conference, a trial date will be scheduled by the court for your case to be heard. You must appear at the trial with all witnesses and documentation of your claim. At the trial you will have an opportunity to explain your case to the judge, ask the person(s) you are suing any questions concerning your claim, present your documentation as discussed at the pre-trial conference and call on your witnesses to help explain your case.
- Why use Mediation?
The Judge will require mediation because: Mediation is economical. Settlement is viewed as fair by both parties. There is one court meeting. You do not need to subpoena witnesses or evidence and depend on their presence at trial. You do not have to conduct extensive trial preparation. Mediation preserves personal and business relationships. It allows debtors to arrange repayment plans; avoid a judgment, and preserves credit reputation. Mediation protects privacy and avoids the publicity of trial. Both parties remain in control and participate in a “win-win” solution. The agreement is final and the dispute resolved.
- Can I have a jury trial on my small claims case?
Yes, a trial by jury may be requested by the person(s) filing the Small Claims case [Plaintiff(s)] upon written demand at the time the case is filed. Someone being filed against [defendant] may request a jury trial within five (5) days after service of Notice or at the pre-trial conference.
- What happens to my case if a settlement is reached?
If, at any time in the proceedings a settlement is reached between the parties, the plaintiff [person(s) who filed suit] must notify the Clerk of the Court’s Office in writing of the settlement.
- How can I collect my judgment?
The court does not collect money damages for you. You may wish to consult with an attorney for advice on how to collect your judgment. You may also wish to pick up an information sheet that addresses collecting a judgment, which is available at the Clerk’s County Civil Department.
- Can I file a lien against the Defendant’s property? If you choose to place a Judgment Lien against any individually owned real property of the defendant’s following the award of a judgment in your favor, you should obtain a certified copy of your judgment and have it recorded in the Official Records at the Clerk’s Recording Division. Fees for recording are set by statute and are subject to change by legislative action. Contact the Clerk’s Office for current fees.