South Carolina magistrate courts hear small civil claims cases involving damages of $7,500 or less. The South Carolina Code of Laws Title 22 and South Carolina Rules of Magistrates Court govern these small claims cases, so you'll follow the same procedure statewide.
Criteria for Filing a Small Claims Case
You can file a civil case with the magistrate court if you are seeking $7,500 or less for:
- Property damage.
- Personal injury.
- Collection of a debt.
You also can file in small claims court to seek the return of your personal property, as long as the property is not worth more than $7,500.
Magistrates do not hear:
- Claims against the state of South Carolina in which the plaintiff is seeking more than $100.
- Claims regarding dispute of real property title.
- Civil claims in which the monetary damages or value of property exceeds $7,500.
Where to File Your Case
Specific rules apply to the location where you file your case. You must file in the county where one of the following criterion exists:
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- The defendant lives in the county.
- The defendant's business is located in the county.
- The dispute occurred in the county.
If the defendant is not a resident of South Carolina, you can file the case in the county where you live.
The South Carolina Judicial Department provides a list of each county's magistrates and court locations.
Complete the Complaint Form
To initiate a small claims suit in magistrate court, fill out the official Complaint form. You must include this information:
- The name of the county where the case will be heard.
- The names and addresses of both parties.
- A brief statement of the case, outlining the reasons that you, the plaintiff, believe the defendant owes you money.
- The dollar amount you claim the defendant owes you, or the value of the property in his possession.
- Your signature and the date.
Print and complete the form online, or get a copy of the form from the magistrate court clerk. If you prefer, you can describe the details of the case, and the clerk will complete the form for you.
Pay Filing Fees
Pay applicable filing fees when you submit your complaint; fees vary by county. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, inform the court clerk that you'd like to file a Motion and Affidavit for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis with your complaint. This motion states that you're unable to pay the court fees and requires your sworn statement and signature in front of a public notary. If your motion is granted, you will not be required to pay court fees.