Small Claims Court is sometimes referred to as the Peoples Court as the proceedings are very informal and often the parties to the suit represent themselves. Small Claims Court has been established to provide expeditious and relatively inexpensive adjudication of small debts. Small Claims Court may hear disputes that have claims for monetary damages up to and including $8,000.00.
What and where to file a Small Claims Suit:
Serving the Defendant:
Certified mail is effective in the State of Florida only. Service on defendants out of the State of Florida must be made by the Sheriff. It is the Plaintiff’s responsibility to obtain the address of the Sheriff of the County where the defendant is to be served.
The Pretrial Hearing:
At the trial, the Judge will consider all the evidence, as well as testimony from the witnesses, and decide the rights of the parties. If the Judge decides in your favor, the Clerk’s Office will send you a certified copy of the Final Judgment and the defendant should pay you the amount set out in the Final Judgment.
Be on time, as this could jeopardize your case.
After Judgment – getting your money:
If the defendant owns real property, you can record a certified copy of the Judgment in the county or counties where real property is located. You will record this with the Clerk of Circuit Court in that county. This will act as a claim of lien against all properties owned by the defendant in that county. Because it is a lien, it will usually be resolved when the defendant tries to sell the property and offer clear title to a purchaser, if not before.
You may also get a writ of execution from the Clerk’s Office 10 days after the Final Judgment is entered. Deliver the writ to the Sheriff of the county where the defendant lives or owns real property. The Sheriff may (for a fee) seize the property and sell it to satisfy the Judgment. There are many laws concerning what the Sheriff may or may not seize and sell. Since execution of a judgment is a complicated procedure, it will probably be in your best interest to obtain a lawyer for this action.
A Writ of Garnishment may also be filed against the defendants wages, bank account or a third party having in his possession money owed to the defendant. Due to the complexity of garnishments, we recommend that you consult an attorney or a library with legal texts available, so that proper procedures are followed. The Clerk’s Office cannot prepare the Writ of Garnishment for you.
Satisfaction of Judgment:
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can file a Small Claims Case?
Do I need a lawyer?
Is there a 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 case, you can have up to 20 years to file if you are challenging a judgment or court decree.
How can I find an owner, resident agent, or principals in a corporation or partnership?
What if either Plaintiff or Defendant fails to appear in Court?
If the plaintiff fails to appear on the designated court date, in person or represented by an attorney, the case may be dismissed for lack of prosecution.
What should be done if both parties settle before the Court Date?
What happens if the Summons is returned un-served?
Small Claims Worksheet
Plaintiff Information (party filing suit):
How did your claim come about?
Naming your defendant:
Serving the Summons: