1. Suing in Small Claims Court
2. How to Sue Someone for Breach of Contract
3. Tips for Presenting a Contract Claim in Small Claims Court

Updated July 28, 2020: 

Suing in Small Claims Court

Small claims court lets you bring smaller claims before a judge without costly fees. It's a simple, inexpensive, and relatively quick alternative to a lawsuit.

Some reasons why you might go to small claims court include the following:

  • Recover a security deposit from a landlord after you vacate the property.
  • Recover unpaid rent after a tenant vacates a property.
  • Recover for medical bills after an injury accident.
  • Recover for repaired, damaged, or destroyed personal property.
  • Recover from a small unpaid debt.

You must determine whether or not your claim meets jurisdictional requirements. Each state has a maximum monetary limit, which ranges from $2,000 up to $10,000. If your dispute exceeds the maximum, you may need to file in a superior court.

Before your hearing date arrives, gather all documents that support your claim. Documents may include letters, memos, photographs, canceled checks, and receipts. Bring several copies with you to court, and make sure you organize them.

How to Sue Someone for Breach of Contract

When one party fails to perform a task as promised or if something occurs to make it impossible for one party to perform as promised, a breach of contract occurs. When preparing your case, keep these aspects in mind:

  • Determine if you have a valid contract. The contract is a written or oral promise. Oral contracts are more difficult to prove. Some contracts must be in writing. These include marriage, real estate transactions, property transfers after a death, debt repayments, goods valued over $500, and agreements that last longer than one year.
  • Determine if a breach of contract occurred. This happens when one party fails to provide goods or services to someone else.
  • Figure out if you fall within the statute of limitations. All states have their own time limits, whether based on circumstances, agreement type, or where you file the claim. You can typically find your state's information online. The timeframe begins once you realize a breach occurred.
  • Determine if the breach caused damages. The law states that prior to suing for breach of contract, the breach must have resulted in financial loss.
  • Take note of all damages. Keep records of monetary damages you experience.

Once you prepare your case, you can begin to file your lawsuit. There are also some tips to remember:

  • Figure out if you can go to small claims court. If the amount is less than the limit in the state where you file suit, you can file in small claims court instead of the county civil court. However, you cannot appeal the verdict.
  • Investigate state laws on serving the opposing party. You must provide the other party with a lawsuit notice and give the other party a chance to respond. Giving notice is another name for serving.
  • Get a complaint form. You must prepare a complaint document that you file with the court. Each state has its own form, so make sure you have the correct one and fill it out accurately. Make at least three copies of the form.
  • File your complaint. You must type the forms and include information such as the names and addresses of each party, a statement explaining why the court has jurisdiction, a description of the contract, an explanation of how the defendant violated the contract, and damages suffered.
  • Wait for a summons. The court will issue a summons, which includes the lawsuit's file number, names of parties, and instructions that the defendant should follow. The defendant must also receive this document.

Tips for Presenting a Contract Claim in Small Claims Court

One of the most common types of claims filed in small claims court is a breach of contract, also known as a breach of contract cause of action. When filing one of these claims, follow these tips:

  • Organize your claim to establish liability, and then focus on damages.
  • Establish liability through the existence of a contract, and then focus on breach of contract evidence.
  • Use evidence to establish damages pertaining to breach of the contract.

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