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 $5,000.00 or less, excluding costs, interest and attorney fees.
The Florida Bar has more information; The Who, What, Where and Why of Collection Lawsuits.
Do I need a lawyer?
No, it is not necessary to have a lawyer. Small Claims Court is considered a "peoples court" and a lawyer is not required. Clerk's Office personnel will provide you with the necessary forms for filing a small claims case. (rules of Court that govern Small claims cases)
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 any Clerk's Office for your information.
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.
The plaintiff is the party bringing the lawsuit. You must give the following information:
- Individual (over 18, or parent must bring the suit) - your full name, address, and phone number.
- Partnership - each partner's full name and business name, address and phone number.
- Corporation - full legal name and d/b/a (if any), registered agent or president's name.
Information for partnerships and corporations may be found by checking occupational licenses in the county or city where the business is located, or through the Secretary of State, Corporation Information Division, Tallahassee, FL (850) 488-9000.
Are there other requirements?
Any time 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.
The STATEMENT OF CLAIM form must be typed or printed with a ballpoint pen to ensure legibility on all copies.
You must provide a copy for filing AND a copy of any supporting documents for EACH defendant you are naming.
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.
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, 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 and call on your witnesses to help explain your case.
Why use mediation?
The judge will require mediation for several reasons. 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 preserve credit reputation. Mediation protects privacy and avoids the publicity of a 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 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 County 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.
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.
Small Claims Forms
CrestviewClerk of the Circuit Court
Clerk of Court Operations Center
601-B N. Pearl St.
Crestview, FL 32536
(850) 689-5000 ext. 4450
Ft. Walton BeachClerk of the Circuit Court
Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex Extension
1940 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 1-300
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
(850) 651-7200 ext. 4450