Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the District Court - When to Use the Small Claims Court Process

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You may use small claims court to collect a claim on a debt or contract as long as the amount claimed is no greater than $6,000, even if the actual debt or contract has a higher value. The judgment on the amount claimed, however, is a final judgment with regard to the total debt or contract. This means you can not later file another case (small claim or civil) based on the same debt or contract. If you file a claim for more than $6,000, the judge may dismiss your case. Also, if the judge determines that your claim is actually for more than $6,000, but you have reduced it to $6,000 in an attempt to bring your claim within the small claims limit, the judge may dismiss your case. The $6,000 limit on a small claim does not include interest or the costs of the suit, such as the filing fee or additional costs of serving the defendant. If you win the case, you may be awarded costs in addition to the amount for which you sued.

A small claim can be brought to collect a debt or damage, to have goods returned, to have an illegal contract cancelled, to have defective goods repaired, or to have money refunded. A small claim may not be filed for any claim involving the title to real estate. Additionally, a small claim may not be filed against a municipality for any tort claim.

A few examples of possible small claims are:

  • A landlord refuses to return a security deposit.
  • Neighbors agree to share the cost of a fence between their yards and then one neighbor refuses to pay.
  • An appliance or a car will not work properly and the dealer refuses to repair it or to refund any money.

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