NY Legal Guide
Home   |   About Us   |   Tell Friend   |   Contact
Trusted legal resources Fast, Easy & Comprehensive.

Small Claims Court FAQ

1. How much can I sue for in Small Claims Court in the City of New York?
2. What are the age requirements for filing a small claim?
3. What is the “Legal” Name?
4. How do I file a small claim?
5. What is the filing fee?
6. Can I use a personal check or credit card for the filing fee?
7. What location of the Small Claims Court should I go to?
8. When is Small Claims Court in session?
9. What does "DBA" mean?
10. Who is a "claimant?"
11. Can I have an interpreter?
12. Can I Have a Jury Decide My Claim?
13. What is a counterclaim?
14. Can I change the date of my hearing?
15. How Do I Ask For an Adjournment?
16. What Can I Do if a Witness Will Not Testify Voluntarily?
17. What happens if the Defendant I sue doesn't come to court?
18. What happens if the Claimant Does Not Appear?
19. If I win my claim, how do I collect my money?
20. How long do I have to collect my judgment?
21. Can I appeal the court decision?
22. Can I sue more than one defendant in one claim?
23. How long does it take to learn if I won after trial?
24. If I lose, what happens?
25. Do I need a lawyer?
26. What is the Statute of Limitation in New York?
27. Why do I need a demand letter?

1. How much can I sue for in Small Claims Court in the City of New York?

Up to $5,000.


2. What are the age requirements for filing a small claim?

You must be at least 18 to sue. A parent or guardian must file for you if you are under 18. If the person being sued is not yet 18, you must sue the parent or parents and provide first and last names.


3. What is the “Legal” Name?

To file the claim in the Small Claims Court, you must provide the legal name and address of the person or business you want to sue. The information about the correct business name can be obtained by in the office of the County Clerk in the county where the business is located. As an alternative, you can provide any name used by the business or by the person who operates the business, and give the Court Clerk the defendant’s correct legal name later. However, if you get a judgment against a business it will be easier to collect it if you know the correct legal name before starting the suit.


4. How do I file a small claim?

Go to the Clerks Office, Small Claims part in one of the 5 counties of New York City and ask the clerk for the forms to file the statement of your claim. You will need the name and address of the person or business you are suing, the amount you are suing for, and a brief reason why you are suing.


5. What is the filing fee?

The fee is $15.00 if you suing for $1,000 or less. It's $20.00 if you are suing for more than $1,000.


6. Can I use a personal check or credit card for the filing fee?

Most of the courts do not accept personal checks or credit cards, but the minority courts do. You can call the court of the county where you want to file the small claim and find more information.


7. What location of the Small Claims Court should I go to?

If the defendant resides or works or has a place of business in New York City, you may file your small claim in the county which belongs to either claimant’s or defendant’s place of work or residence. However, claimant cannot sue an individual or business located outside the City of New York in the New York City Small Claims Court.


8. When is Small Claims Court in session?

Generally, Small Claims Court sessions are held during the evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m. You should arrive 30 or more minutes early because you will have to go through magnetometers for security reasons, and this may delay your arrival in the courtroom. However, in certain situations, the Small Claims Clerk can schedule a day session. You can ask the Small Claims Clerk for the day session if you are a senior citizens (65 years of age or older) or a disabled person.


9. What does "DBA" mean?

"Doing business as."


10. Who is a "claimant?"

A claimant is the person who started the action in the Small Claims Court or suing in a small claims case.


11. Can I have an interpreter?

If you want to ask for an interpreter, tell the Small Claims Clerk when you file your small claim. The clerk will arrange to have a court interpreter available for you or your witnesses at the time of your hearing.


12. Can I Have a Jury Decide My Claim?

Usually, claimant in a small claims action waive the right to a jury trial. However, a defendant may demand a trial by jury. The fee for the jury trial is $70. Also, the defendant must pay $50 to the court for any costs that the court awards to the claimant. A defendant who requests a jury trial also must submit an “affidavit,” a sworn notarized statement, in which the defendant must state that the claim involves one or more factual questions that must be decided by a jury and that the request for a jury trial is made in good faith. For more information, see the court clerk if you request a jury trial.


13. What is a counterclaim?

The process when the defendant may have a claim against the claimant and may countersue the claimant in the same case is known as a “counterclaim”. The amount of the counterclaim cannot be more than $5,000 in the Small Claims Court and can be for money only.


14. Can I change the date of my hearing?

Adjournments in the Small Claims Court can be granted only by the Judge or can be granted by the court clerk during the hearing date if both parties agree to have a hearing on a different date.


15. How Do I Ask For an Adjournment?

The request for an adjournment should be requested before the scheduled date of your trial date and should be mailed or faxed to the clerk of the Court and should be mailed to the other party as well. However, on the day of the trial, someone (from your side) should appear in the Court to explain the Judge why you are not ready for trial.


16. What Can I Do if a Witness Will Not Testify Voluntarily?

If a witness will not testify voluntarily, you may apply for issuance of a subpoena to the clerk of the Small Claims Court. A subpoena is a legal document that commands the person named in the subpoena to appear in court. The person subpoenaed is entitled to a $15 witness fee and in some cases travel expenses, which must be paid at the time the subpoena is served. You are responsible for paying these fees. Service of the subpoena may be done by any person who is not a party to the small claim and who is 18 years of age or older (including a friend or relative). Either party may apply for a subpoena up to 48 hours before the trail date. An expert witness may not be compelled to testify by subpoena, but you may pay the expert witness for coming to court to testify.


17. What happens if the Defendant I sue doesn't come to court?

If the defendant does not appear, the Judge may award the claimant an inquest, a hearing without the defendant, even though the Judge has not heard the defendant’s side of the story. This means that the claimant will go before the judge or arbitrator to present some evidence. The claimant still have to prove the case and tell what happened. If the claimant presents enough evidence to establish his/her case, the Judge or Arbitrator will award a "default judgment” against the defendant.


18. What happens if the Claimant Does Not Appear?

If the claimant does not appear in court when the calendar is called, the case will be dismissed.


19. If I win my claim, how do I collect my money?

Contact the judgment debtor and request payment of the judgment amount within 30 days from the date the judgment was entered. Winning a judgment however, does not guarantee you will collect the money. If the defendant doesn't pay, you will have to try to collect the money you have won with the help of enforcement officer (sheriff or city marshal). Before starting this process of the execution from the court, it is claimant’s responsibility to get some financial information about the defendant’s real or personal property or financial institutions. You can look for the financial statements like pay from work, bank account, motor vehicle and other assets. You may also, have to file "information subpoenas" (ask the Court Clerk). An enforcement officer than can use the information that you provide and can seize a judgment debtor’s assets to pay your judgment.

In New York City the clerk can provide you with a list of City Marshals or you can consult the telephone book.


20. How long do I have to collect my judgment?

Twenty years.


21. Can I appeal the court decision?

Yes. If your case was tried by a judge, you may appeal the decision. However, you cannot appeal if your case was tried by an arbitrator.


22. Can I sue more than one defendant in one claim?

Yes. You can sue more than one defendant. Simply list the defendants on the claim form. The Court will serve each party involved.


23. How long does it take to learn if I won after trial?

In a few cases the judge or arbitrator will decide in the court. Generally the results are sent by mail to the parties, even if the decision is clear to the judge or arbitrator right away. This may take a few days or more.


24. If I lose, what happens?

You will pay the money that is specified in the judgment. In very rare occasions you may have to pay the other side's additional costs and expenses. This means certain money they may have had to pay, but not their lawyer's fees. In theory at least you sometimes may be then sued for "malicious prosecution" or "abuse of process".


25. Do I need a lawyer?

If your attempts to settle the dispute are unsuccessful, you should determine whether your case is one which should be handled by an attorney, or whether you want to pursue the matter alone. If the amount involved is significant, or if you are not comfortable representing yourself, the assistance of an attorney may be a good idea. In other cases, you should be able to competently represent yourself in small claims court. Usually the procedures are relaxed and more informal and can be done without the help of the attorney.


26. What is the Statute of Limitation in New York?

A statute of limitations is a law which places a time limit on bringing the lawsuit. After the expiration of the statutory period, the claimant loses the right to file a lawsuit seeking money damages or other relief. To see if you have waited too long, determine how long it has been since you have suffered the wrong for which you are going to sue. To satisfy Statute of Limitation, the claimant must commence the claim no later than the last day of the prescribed period of limitations.

Time limits differ depending on the type of claim. In fact there are many statutes which apply limitations periods to civil actions in New York State. Some of them are:

* Contracts - 6 years.

* UCC Contracts (Contract between the merchants) - 4 years.

* Fraud - 6 years.

* Personal Injury - 3 years.

* Personal Property Damage - 3 years.

* Product/Strict Liability - 3 years.

* All Professional Malpractice (except medical) – 3 years

* Medical Malpractice – 2 1/2 years

* Libel/Slander/Defamation – 1 year

* Claim against the city – 1 year and 90 days

* Claim against public official – 1 years

* Intentional Tort – 1 year

* Tenant retaliatory eviction – 1 year

* Enforcement of penalty/forfeiture on arbitration award for overchard/interest – 1 year

If your claim arose more than one year ago you may want to consult an attorney and discuss this matter with him or her before you file your suit.


27. Why do I need a demand letter?

Settling you claim before going to the Small Claims Court is a preferable way to resolve the dispute and can help to avoid the cost of the litigation and spending the time in the court. That is why it is wise to send the other party a short, clear letter demanding payment before starting the lawsuit. Demand letter can often result in the other side paying what you ask or agreeing to an acceptable compromise. In the demand letter you explain your legal position, laying out the reasons why the other party owes you money and state that if you fail to get satisfaction, you plan to go to small claims court. Demand letter is an efficient way to enforce the dispute resolutions. Statistics indicates that demand letters initiate a successful resolution in as many as one third of all potential disputes.

Under some statutes (especially consumer-protection laws), a demand letter is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit.


Legal Categories
Immigration Law
Business & Corporate Law
Name Change
Small Claims Court
Divorce
Personal Injury Accidents
Criminal Law
More Information
Find Lawyer
Legal Glossary
Legal Forms
Join Our Mailing List
Receive Latest Legal News.
Name:
E-mail: