A small claims case is a legal action filed in county court to settle minor disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is $5,000 or less, excluding costs, interest, and attorney’s fees. An attorney is not required; however, if the other side hires an attorney, it would be prudent to consider hiring one also. If you are seeking items of property, you may need to request replevin information.
Filing your Claim
There are pre-printed forms available from the Clerk of Court’s office, Division of Small Claims. There are no preprinted forms for County Civil, which are claims more then $5,000. The filing fees are set by Florida Statue and are subject to change by legislative action. Your claim form must have attached copies of any contracts, notes, leases, receipts or other evidence in support of the claim.
Service of Process
After the filing of a small claims case, each person or business sued must be served with a copy of the claim form and any attachments plus the Pretrial Notice to Appear/Summons from which states the date and time to appear in court. You will be given a copy of the Pretrial Notice to Appear/Summons form as well. Mark it on your calendar. See separate sheet explaining in detail the possible ways to serve defendant.
Service of Process Information
Since you have filed a lawsuit against a person, company or corporation, the next step is having that person or company served with the lawsuit, you may elect one of the following for service:
- Certified Mail – Actual postal costs per defendant who must reside in Florida.
- Sheriff’s Office – $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.
- Insurance Commissioner – Call for amount to serve insurance company
Florida Department of Insurance 1-800-342-2762
Service of Process Section – 200 East Gaines Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399
General Service of Process Information
When you sue someone, you must have a correct name, physical address, mailing address and phone number. If you are a business filing suit, you must file your claim under the proper legal name of your business. If you business is a corporation and someone other than the president, vice president or secretary of the corporation signs the pleading or makes an appearance in court, you must file a corporate authorization form. You must know the correct name of the person or business or corporation you are suing as well as their address and phone number if at all possible.
To Sue a Business that is NOT Incorporated
You will need the person or persons who actually own the business and address where they can be served. Example: you are suing John Smith d/b/a Smith’s Auto Repair Shop or John & Jane Smith d/b/a Smith’s Auto Repair Shop, 333 Smith Road, Smithville, Florida 33333. You may also check with fictitious name registrations by visiting www.sunbiz.org
To Sue a Business that IS Incorporated
Legal name of business, the name of the registered agent or officer of company and an address where the officer or agent can be served. Visit www.sunbiz.org
Defendant or Business not Served
You cannot have a court hearing until the person or business you are suing is served. You may attempt to service again when you have located a new address for the defendant. Our Sheriff’s office will not recharge you for an alias service if prepared within one year.
The defendant(s) or business has been served and the case is set for pretrial conference before Judge Russell. Both parties must appear unless the party lives more than 50 miles from the courthouse and receives permission from the Judge to appear by telephone. Each party should read the Notice of Pretrial Conference, it explains in detail venue, witness, continuances, etc. If the dispute cannot be settled at pretrial conference, a trial date will be scheduled by the Court. If, at any time in the proceeding a settlement is reached by the parties, the person who filed the suit must notify the Clerk’s office in writing of the settlement. Forms are available.