The Delaware Justice of the Peace Court handles small claims actions. While such courts are local, the law regarding small claims actions is determined by the state. Filing rules and procedures are the same in every county.
The Justice of the Peace Court only has jurisdiction to handle certain civil cases. It does not hear cases regarding damages for personal injury or damages sought in excess of $15,000
Determine the Type of Action to File
- Debt Actions: File this type of action if you're suing to recover money owed to you for a debt, for goods or services you provided or for unpaid rent. You'll also file a debt action to recover money for goods or services you paid for but didn't receive, as well as unreturned security deposits.
- Trespass Actions: File this type of action to collect money for damages to your property. Examples include damage to your car as the result of an accident, or damage to your home as the result of vandalism.
- Replevin Actions: File this action when someone has your personal property and you want to get it back. Replevin means the recovery of personal property by court action.
- Summary Possession Actions: File this action if you are a landlord seeking tenant eviction due to unpaid rent or damage to the rental property. You may include damages for unpaid rent in your summary possession action if you're also seeking eviction. If you're only seeking unpaid rent, you'll file a debt action instead.
Fill Out the Complaint Form
Delaware uses the same form for all four types of actions. Download the form online or get a form at any Justice of the Peace court. Make sure to use the correct name of the defendant; you can only collect awarded damages from a person or company with the exact name listed on the complaint.
Complete Filing Requirements
Each type of action has different filing requirements.
The Concise Statement of Facts section of the complaint form for a debt action should contain the following information:
- Details about the agreement or contract, including all terms
- Proof that the plaintiff completed his part of the agreement
- A statement regarding the defendant's failure to pay, including the amount owed.
- A copy of the contract if the interest rate is higher than the legal rate.
The Concise Statement of Facts section of the complaint form for a replevin action should contain the following information:
- An exact description of the property
- Who has the property
- How and when that person came into possession of the property
- The reason the plaintiff has ownership of the property
- The fact that the property has not been returned
- The value of the property, so that monetary damages may be awarded if the property cannot be returned
The Concise Statement of Facts section of the complaint form for a trespass action should contain the following information:
- A description of the damaged property
- Details about how the damage occurred
- The monetary amount of the damage
- The name of the owner of the property at the time of damage
- Who damaged the property, and when
Summary Possession Actions
Summary possession actions are more complicated than the other three types of actions. In addition to numerous details regarding the complaint and relief sought, landlords must provide proof of five day notice as required by Delaware Code, Title 25, Chapter 55. Before filing a summary possession action, refer to the booklet How To File and Defend a Summary Possession Action in the Justice of the Peace Court, which provides detailed information and instructions.
File the Action
File the completed form and three copies with the court. You may file the action in person, or by mail. Pay the filing fee. For debt, trespass and replevin actions, you must file your small claims action with the court in the county where the defendant lives. If you're filing a summary possession action, you must file it with the court nearest to the rental property.
You don’t need legal representation to file a small claims action. However, if you’re unfamiliar with the legal issues at hand, you may benefit from the experience and knowledge of a reputable attorney.