Small claims cases in Florida are governed by Florida Statutes and Florida Small Claims Rules, and are heard in local county courts. Procedures for cases are the same statewide. However, forms and process serving fees vary by county. You may file a civil cases in which you're seeking $5,000 or less -- not including interest, fees and attorney costs -- in county courts small claims divisions.
Determine the Proper Venue
The venue -- place where the case will be heard -- is determined by Florida Small Claims Rules. You must file the case in the county:
- Where the event occurred
- Where the defendant lives
- Where the defendant's business is located, or
- Where the property is located
Complete the Statement of Claim
File a Statement of Claim form to initiate a small claim. Statement of Claim forms vary by county. Visit your county's website to download forms or visit the court clerk in person to obtain the proper forms. The court clerk can assist you in filling out the form, but she cannot give you legal advice.
The top part of the Statement of Claim for is called the caption. It contains the following information:
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- The county in which you're filing
- The plaintiff's name and address -- the person filing the claim
- The defendant's name and address -- the person whom the plaintiff claims owes the money or illegally possesses the plaintiff's property
The court clerk will fill in the case number on the caption when you file.
The bottom portion of the form details the specifics of the case. You'll briefly describe why you feel the defendant owes you money and the dollar amount you'd like the judge to award.
File Forms and Pay Filing Fees
If the issues of your claim include a contract, estimate, receipt or other paperwork, make a copy and attach it with your Statement of Claim form. Ask the court clerk how many copies of the form you'll need to provide, making sure to keep a copy for your own records.
Fees for civil cases depend on the amount of money requested, or value of personal property that the plaintiff is requesting:
For claims less than $100, the filing fee is $50 For claims of $100 to $499.99, the filing fee is $75 For claims of $500 to $2,499.99, the filing fee is $170 For claims of $2,500 or more, the filing fee is $295
The county clerk will apply an additional fee to provide service of summons; check with your specific county for an exact fee.
Important Things to Know When Filing
It's important to determine and provide the correct address for the defendant on the Statement of Claim form. After you file, the court will serve him a summons -- an order to appear in court to defend himself from your charges. Delays occur when the defendant cannot be located.
he small claims court is designed to provide relief to plaintiffs seeking small judgment amounts, so the procedure is less complicated than larger civil cases. However, some plaintiffs might benefit from the assistance or advice of an attorney.