How to File a Small Claims Court Case in New York

A simpler and faster process than a regular trial

T The Small Claims Court is a special division of the court where you can file a lawsuit without having to have an attorney. Small cases are defined as those worth less than $5,000 or less than $3,000, depending on the region. Small claims court trials are much simpler to conduct than regular civil cases, and they also adhere to fewer relevant rules.

A small claims court is established for cases involving $5,000 or less

A A small claims court, sometimes referred to as a “people’s court,” is a place where civil litigation can be handled relatively easily and quickly without the need of a lawyer. However, compensation cannot exceed $ 5,000 and only deals with money-related cases.For example, repairs to broken items or compensation for pain are not eligible.

Examples of general small claims court cases include:

Non-compliance with contracts, lease agreements, warranties, and promise notes
Issues related to bad checks and stopped payment checks
Lost luggage, lost property, reduced working hours
Damage to cars, various private property, and real estate
If you do not receive repairs, services, or goods properly
Non-payment of a service fee, a monthly salary, a monthly rent, a product payment, etc.
Not receive a deposit, possessions, down payment, or loaned money.

Anyone over 18 years of age can file a small lawsuit, but businesses are different

A Anyone over the age of 18 may file a small claims court lawsuit. If you are under the age of 18, your parent or legal guardian may represent you in the lawsuit. In a small claims court, the person who files the complaint is called the claimant, and the person who is sued is called the defendant. Organizations such as corporations, partnerships, associations, etc. may not file lawsuits in small court. They must proceed with the lawsuit through the Commercial Small Claims Part, a separate division of the civil court. 

The beginning of the lawsuit is the filing of the claimant’s affidavit

T To initiate a small claims lawsuit, you or your designated agent must visit the Small Court directly and submit a Statement of Claim. It is common that you usually have to go to it yourself, but in exceptional cases, you can also file it by mail. For example, if a claimant who does not live in New York City wants to sue a defendant who lives in New York City, or if the claimant is over 65 years old or cannot visit the court directly because of a disability, filing by mail is available. When writing an affidavit, you must explain the reasons for the lawsuit as well as demand the amount of compensation you want to receive.

Choose a judicial area based on the location of residence, work, and business on both sides

T To sue an individual or business through a New York City small claims court, the defendant’s address must be New York City. Suppose the defendant lives, works, or operates a business in New York City. In this case, the plaintiff’s statement may be submitted to a small claims court in the New York City borough where the plaintiff lives, or the borough where the defendant’s residence, workplace, and business are located in New York City.

A lawsuit costs between $15 and $20 to file

D Depending on the demand for compensation, the filing fee also varies. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the Small Claims Court Clerk will inform the claimant of the trial date. The small claims court trial is usually held in the evening session, but it is sometimes held in the morning or afternoon session for those who cannot attend the evening session.

You need to know the defendant’s name and address

W When a claimant files with a small claims court, you must provide the exact name and address of the defendant. If you do not know exactly the name of the business operated by the defendant, you should look for information at the County Clerk’s Office located at the business you are suing.

Notice of Claim

A After the claimant submits an affidavit, the clerk of the Small Claims Court will notify the defendant by mail that the case has been filed. The cost of mailing this Notice of Claim shall be paid by the claimant. The notice briefly informs the defendant of the reason for filing the claimant’s lawsuit, the amount of the compensation, and the date and time of the trial.

If the notice is not properly delivered to the defendant, the lawsuit is dismissed

T The clerk of the small claims court sends the defendant a notice via first-class and certified mail. If the notice is not delivered properly and is returned, set a new trial date and inform the claimant. In this case, a notice may be sent to the defendant through personal carrier delivery. However, the plaintiff is not permitted to deliver it directly, and anyone who is not directly related to the case, any adult 18 years of age or older, is permitted to deliver the notice to the defendant. If a notice is not delivered to the defendant within four months, the case will be dismissed.

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