SMALL AND LARGE CLAIMS
The following is a synopsis of the law regarding civil lawsuits, both small and large claims. It is not intended to be a complete summary of the law and should not take the place of legal advice from an attorney:
Overview: What is a civil suit anyways?
There are a variety of reasons why you might file a civil suit against another person or organization. One of the most common scenarios is a Landlord who is attempting to collect the overdue rent from his/her wayward tenant. This usually happens after the Tenant has vacated the rental (say, after a Failure-to-pay rent action).
Regardless of how you get there though, a civil suit is an action you bring in the Court with the intent of forcing another party to pay money you believe is owed to you. Occasionally, you can get a money judgment against the other party in another type of action (say, a Tenant-Holding-Over action), but generally, if you want to get money from someone else, you are looking at a civil suit, either for breach of contract (ie rent money owed, etc.) or for a harm that someone caused you (ie. personal injury).
There are 2 types of Courts that this office generally deals with: Small Claims and Large Claims Court.
Small Claims Court: $5,000 or less
Out of all the places to be filing suit, Small Claims Court (“SCC”) is the best place to be. As its name implies, SCC is designed to handle all claims that are, well… small. Specifically, anything for $5,000 or less.
The reason why its great to be in SCC is most, if not all the rules of evidence are severely relaxed. Hearsay is admissible, documents don’t require authentication in the same way that they usually do and objections generally don’t happen. In short, SCC is designed to be quick and efficient. Most cases are usually handled in 20-30 minutes maximum. In fact, even LLC’s and other corporate entities, which usually require an attorney, can be represented by an agent. Its great. The only downside is the fact that the max you can get (absent attorney fees, etc.) is $5,000, so not a lot of money in play.
Large Claims Court: Over $5,000 to $30,000
As its name implies, Large Claims Court (“LCC”) is designed for cases that are dealing in more… substantive amounts. Any claim that is over $5,000 but less than $30,000 can be dealt with in LCC, with certain claims (anything over $25,000) being eligible to be heard by the Circuit Court.
LCC is less awesome than SCC because all the things that SCC has, LCC doesn’t. In LCC, the rules of evidence are in full force. Hearsay isn’t admissible (ie “Bob told me that Janice said”), Lawyers can object to things (ie. “Objection your Honor, lack of foundation”) and all the foundations of your evidence has to be established. The cases are longer and the fighting is a lot more intense. If you are an incorporated entity, you must have an attorney or you will not be allowed to present any evidence. There are rights of discovery (ie “give me any documents that either prove or disprove my case”).
In short, it’s a royal pain in the behind. You will probably need a lawyer to navigate the morass of rules so that you even have a shot of winning. Unfortunately, those lawyers can often be very expensive… Fortunately for you, this office offers a variety of means by which you can get legal assistance, from sliding scale fees to contingency fees (depends on the situation).
Click here to set up a consultation with this office to discuss your legal options.