1. Small Claims Court
“Small Claims Court is a special court where you can sue for up to $5000. You can only sue for money. You cannot sue to make someone do something or for pain and suffering.
Small Claims Court is sometimes called the People’s Court because:
- It is inexpensive and easy to use,
- You do not have to have a lawyer,
- The Court will notify the defendant for you,*
- It has convenient hours of operation, and
- The Court can get you an interpreter, if you need one.
* If the Court is not able to notify the defendant by mail, the clerk will tell you what to do.”
How to Sue in Small Claims Court
Go to Small Claims Court in either the borough where you live or where the person or party you are suing (defendant) lives or works.
Fill out an application and pay the clark a small filing free–individuals pay a small fee while businesses pay a slightly higher fee–which covered the cost of preparing and sending a summons by certified mail to that defendant.
In the application, be sure you provide your name and address, the reason you are suing, and the amount you are suing to recover. Also include any provable expenses or losses incurred because of what happened to you such as the cost of using taxies while your damaged car was being repaired.
Write the exact name and the home or business address of the defendant. The name of the person or business must be complete and correct. If the defendant does business under a trade name such as “Fizzie Appliances” or “Fizzie’s,” you will need to know its legal name, which might be “Fizzie’s Appliance Store, Inc.” To obtain the real name, go to the office of the County Clerk in the borough where the business is conducted.
Preparing Your Case
You will need originals or copies of all relevant documentation such as receipts, contracts, and canceled checks. You may wish to prove damages by bringing the damaged item to court, showing photographs of the item before and after the damage occurred, or submitting the report of a repair person. You may present witnesses as long as they have knowledge of the facts. Witnesses essential to your case may be subpoenaed if necessary.
The case is hared by a judge, or if all parties consent, by an arbitrator, who is a lawyer. If you choose an arbitrator, your case will be heard much sooner than with a judge and in an informal setting, rather than in a courtroom. You must understand that an arbitrator’s decision is binding and may not be appealed. Proceedings are simple. each side having the opportunity to explain its position, produce witnesses and documentation.
The maximum amount you can sue for in Small Claims Court is $5,000.00.
If a judgement is award in your favor, you should try to contact the defendant to collect your judgement. If the defendant does not pay you, you should seeks the assistance of a sheriff or city marshal located in the county in which the defendant lives or works. You must provide the sheriff/marshal with the information needed to locate assets (monty or property) of the defendant, and the sheriff/marshal can the seize those assets to satisfy your judgement. The sheriff/marshall may request mileage and other fees before he or she seizes the assets. In many circumstance, these fees later can be added to the original judgment amount–which covers the cost of preparing and sending a summons by certified mail to the defendant.
Property which may be seized by an enforcement officer includes bank accounts, wages, houses or other real estate, automobiles, stocks and bonds. Upon satisfactory completion, you will receive a check from the sheriff’s or marshal’s office.
For more information, please visit NYC Consumer Affairs: Small Claims Court Guide.
- NY Courts.Gov: New York City Small Claims Court: Starting a Case
- NY Courts.Gov: New York City Small Claims Court: New York City Courthouses
There are also non-profit organizations that help you file claims.
In addition, if you would like to know how to solve your problems without lawsuits, the Court Dispute Referral Centers can provide the information.