people's Lawyer


What Type Of Case Can Be Brought In Justice 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 justice court.

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

Justice 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 justice 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 justice 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 justice 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.

Justice court can only award money or the return of specific property. In most cases, however,  it cannot,order a person to perform a specific task. For example, a mechanic cannot be ordred to property repair your car.. 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, other than return specific property. If you need an order to make someone do something or to stop doing something, other courts are available. Generally, if you win in justice court, all you get is money (up to $10,000 plus court costs).

Some examples of the most common types of small claims disputes which find their way into justice 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 justice 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 justice court. Unlike other courts, a corporation does not need an attorney to file a claim in justice court. A corporation may appear in justice court through an employee or officer, even if the person is not a lawyer.

Some entities, however, may not file a small claims case in justice court. Banks and other institutions that are in the business of lending money for interest cannot file a cannot file a small claims case in justice court. A collection agency also cannot bring a small claims case in justice court. Instead, collection agencies and banks must file a debt claim case in justice court to recover damages against you.  However, if you have a claim against a bank or a collection agency, you can file a small claims case against the bank or collection agency in justice court.

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