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 cannot notify the defendant by mail, the clerk will tell you what to do.”

NY State Courts: Your Guide to Small Claims & Commercial Small Claims in New York City, Nassau County, and Suffolk County


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 clerk a small filing free–individuals pay a small fee while businesses pay a slightly higher fee–which covers the cost of preparing and sending a summons by certified mail to that defendant.
In the application, provide your name and address, why 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 taxis 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 trading 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.


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 know 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, 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 has the opportunity to explain its position and produce witnesses and documentation.


If a judgment is awarded in your favor, you should try to contact the defendant to collect your judgment. If the defendant does not pay you, you should seek 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 the defendant’s assets (money or property), and the sheriff/marshal can seize those assets to satisfy your judgment. The sheriff/marshall may request mileage and other fees before seizing the assets. In many circumstances, 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.
An enforcement officer may seize property, including 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.


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.

Click to copy link[ Last Updated: April, 2022 ]


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