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How to Sue in Small Claims Court
What Type Of Case Can Be Brought In Small Claims Court?

If you have a problem that you want to resolve, first consider whether it is the kind of dispute you can bring in a small claims court.

Not all disputes can be heard in small claims court. Some disputes should be settled without a lawsuit.

Small claims court cannot hear disputes involving more than $10,000. No matter how important the case is to you, and no matter how well you convince the judge that you deserve to recover more, the judge in small claims court simply cannot rule on a dispute for more than $10,000, plus court costs. If you wish to recover more than $10,000, you must consider another court, and in most cases, the assistance of an attorney.

If the amount you are asking for is over $10,000, you cannot file in small claims court. You cannot just say you will take less to get into this court. In many cases, however, a claim may be reduced to enable you to file in small claims court. If the transaction giving rise to your dispute can be divided into parts, you can sue for damages based on some of the divisible parts. For example, if you purchased several different items in one transaction, you may be able to sue for damages to some, but not all of those items.

Small claims court can only award money. It cannot, for example, order a mechanic to fix your car correctly. The court could only award you the monetary damages you suffered because your car was not repaired the way that was promised. Similarly, the court cannot order your ex-husband to stop harassing you. The court cannot order a store to deliver the television set you paid for but never received. The court cannot order your roommate to move out of your apartment for failing to pay the rent. You cannot ask the court to order the other party to do anything, or to refrain from doing something. If you need an order to make someone do something or to stop doing something, other courts are available. If you win in small claims court, all you get is money (up to $10,000 plus court costs).

Some examples of the most common types of disputes which find their way into small claims court are:

1. You loan money to a friend , and now he refuses to pay you back.

2. More than a month has gone by since you moved out of your apartment. You gave your correct forwarding address when you moved out. Now management refuses to return your security deposit and will not give you a statement of what they have done with your deposit.

3. You have your car repaired. After you get it back, you discover that you have been charged for repairs that were not, in fact, made.

4. You buy a new appliance that has a warranty. It breaks down shortly after you bought it, through no fault of your own.

Any person who is over 18 years old can file a claim in small claims court. A minor can use the court by having a parent, relative or "next friend" over 18 years old go with him to file a claim and later attend the trial. An association, partnership or corporation may also file a claim in small claims court. Unlike other courts, a corporation does not need an attorney to file a claim in small claims court. A corporation may appear in small claims court through an employee or officer, even if the person is not a lawyer.

Some entities, however, may not use small claims court. Banks and other institutions that are in the business of lending money for interest cannot file a suit in small claims court. A collection agency also cannot sue in small claims court. But if you have a claim against a bank or a collection agency, you can file suit against them in small claims court.

A copy of the Texas Small Claims Court Statute is at the end of this booklet.