Small Claims

Small Claims Small Claims Forms

Small Claims

A “small claim” is a legal action filed in County Court to settle minor legal disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is no greater than $8,000, excluding costs, interest, and attorney fees. Small Claims court is considered a “people’s court,” so it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a claim, but you can use an attorney if you wish.

What types of cases are most commonly filed in the Small Claim division?

  • Past due credit card debt
  • Past due rent
  • Personal or business unpaid bills or obligations
  • All civil actions that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Circuit or County Court.

Where can I get the forms needed to file a small claim case?
The forms needed to file a small claim case are available on our website or at the Clerk’s Office. The “Statement of Claim” form will tell the other party why you are suing and the amount of the claim. If this form is signed outside of our office, it needs to be notarized. It can also be signed in the presence of a Deputy Clerk here at the Clerk’s Office.

How do I serve my documents?
You can have your summons (issued to you by the Clerk’s Office) served by the Sheriff’s Office, a private process server, or by certified mail. Certified mail can only be served within the State of Florida. Certified Mail – The actual postage cost may vary per defendant. The defendant(s) must reside in Florida to be served via Certified Mail.

  • Sheriff’s Service Fee – The Sheriff’s service fee is $40.00 per defendant for Florida residents. Out of state Sheriff’s departments may charge a different fee. You are required to have a money order or business check made payable to the Sheriff of the County where the resident resides. For more information please visit the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s website at https://www.sheriff-okaloosa.org/divisions/civil-process/.
  • Private Process Server – You will need contact the process server of your choice to determine the cost of service. The Clerk’s Office cannot refer a process server to you. You can get a referral from the Florida Association of Professional Process Servers at (https://fapps.org/) which provides a “Find A Process Server” link on their website.

What is the process that is followed for small claims cases?
There are several steps involved in a small claims case. They are: filing the case, serving the defendant(s), holding a pre-trial conference, holding a trial if necessary, and a judgment being issued. There are a number of circumstances, unique to each case that may delay, postpone or even cancel portions of this process. For example, if a settlement is reached at the pre-trial conference, a trial will not be necessary.

Filing a Case
When filing a Small Claims case, you need to be certain that you are suing the proper party. If you are suing a business, you should contact the Secretary of State Website at www.sunbiz.org to retrieve the information needed to have your summons served on the Registered Agent of the corporation or business. If you have any attachments to prove your claim, those attachments must be filed with the complaint in order to be included with the serve/return documents.

Service of Process
You cannot have a court hearing until the person or business you are suing is served. You must know the correct name of the person, business, or corporation you are suing as well as their address and phone number, if possible. If the defendant is not served, you may attempt to service again when you have located a new address.

Pre-Trial Conference
When your case is filed, you will be given a Pre-Trial conference date. All parties will be required to attend. If your defendant(s) is not served, your case will not go to court and you will have to file a request for the Clerk to prepare a new summons for service. Both parties (plaintiff and defendant) must appear in person unless permission is granted by the County Judge to appear by telephone. If the Plaintiff does not appear, the case will be dismissed. If the Defendant does not appear and the Plaintiff is present, a Default Judgment may be entered. If the dispute cannot be settled at the pretrial conference, a trial date will be scheduled by the Court.

Trial
The presiding Judge will be the Judge and the Jury at the Trial.

Witnesses
You may bring witnesses to the Trial but not to the Pre-Trial conference. If a witness will not appear and testify voluntarily, you may request the Clerk’s office to prepare and issue a subpoena. There is a $2.00 service charge for the issuance of a subpoena, and the Sheriff charges a service fee of $40.00 to serve the subpoena (These fees are subject to change).

Judgments
If you win the case, the judge will issue an order in your favor. Neither the Court nor the Clerk of Court will collect the judgment for you. You may want to contact an attorney for guidance on how to collect on a judgment or file a lien.

Settlement
If you and the other party reach a settlement after opening a small claims case, the Clerk’s Office must be notified in writing that a settlement has been reached and that you no longer wish to pursue your case.

Satisfaction of Judgment/Lien
When the judgment is paid in full, you are required to furnish the defendant(s) with a Satisfaction of Judgment. A copy of the Satisfaction of Judgment should be furnished to the Clerk’s Office. The Satisfaction of Judgment must be signed in the presence of a notary. The Defendant(s) should then have the original Satisfaction of Judgment recorded with the Clerk’s Office to remove any liens placed against him/her.

Additional Resources:
https://www.floridabar.org/public/consumer/tip015/

Okaloosa County Courthouse
101 East James Lee Blvd.
Crestview, FL 32536
(850) 689-5000, ext 4450
Office Hours:
Mon – Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm CST
Courthouse Annex Extension
1940 Lewis Turner Blvd.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32547
(850) 651-7200, ext 4450
Office Hours:
Mon – Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm CST

 

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Don Allgood, D.C., RMO, RMLO, CPM
Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller
1940 Lewis Turner Blvd.
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
PublicRecords@Okaloosaclerk.com