In Texas, the Justice Court hears civil cases in which damages sought do not exceed $10,000. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure dictate the rules regarding small claims lawsuits. While your case is typically handled at your local courthouse, the filing requirements are the same in every county in Texas.
Determine Your Filing Venue
The defendant of a small claims lawsuit has the right to have his case heard in one of the following venues:
- The county where he resides
- The county where the incident occurred
- The county where the contract was performed
- The county where the property is currently located
The plaintiff can file the suit in the county where he lives if the defendant is not a Texas resident.
Prepare Your Petition
The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure require that a plaintiff file a petition to instigate a small claims lawsuit. Each county uses its own form, but all contain the same information, including:
- Name and contact information of the plaintiff
- Name and contact information of the defendant
- The amount of money or a description and monetary value of personal property sought by the plaintiff
- An explanation of any other relief sought
- A summary of the case
Texas Justice Courts can serve documents such as answers or motions via email. If the plaintiff agrees to email service, he will consent and provide his email address on the petition.
Prepare the Justice Court Civil Case Information Sheet
The Supreme Court of Texas declared the Justice Court Civil Case Information Sheet mandatory for all civil cases in 2013. The sheet is used for data collection purposes. It consists of three parts: contact information for the person completing the form; names of the plaintiff and defendant; and the type of case.
Submit Forms and Pay Fees
Check with the appropriate county clerk to determine how many copies of the petition you'll need to file. Fees vary by county. If you're unable to pay the filing fees, submit a sworn statement to the court. The statement should include:
- Your name
- Income received from all sources, including that of your spouse.
- The number of dependents in your household
- Your monthly financial obligations
- Current assets in cash or checking accounts
The sworn statement must also contain the phrase, "I am unable to pay court fees. I verify that the statements made in this statement are true and correct." You must swear to the statement and sign in the presence of a notary public.
You're not required to use the services of an attorney for small claims cases in Texas. However, legal issues surrounding civil cases can be complicated. Review the Justice Court Procedures for Small Claims and seek legal advice if necessary.