How to File a Small Claims Suit in Texas
Types of Cases
The small claims court hears cases in which the plaintiff only seeks monetary damages that amount to $10,000 or less. This means that the plaintiff cannot seek to recover an amount exceeding $10,000. Also, the plaintiff cannot seek non-monetary damages such as an injunction since the court can only award money.
No Lawyer Required
Parties in a small claims suit typically represent themselves without the assistance of a lawyer. This is because cases involving $10,000 or less really don’t warrant costly litigation. A party may choose to be represented by legal counsel, but representation is not required.
The fact that a lawyer is not needed makes the small claims court the most favorable court among plaintiffs. In fact, plaintiffs have been known to accept a lesser amount in damages just to get into small claims court. They are willing to get less just to avoid having to pay for a lawyer. However, Texas law prohibits a person from accepting less than what their case is worth just to get into small claims court.
How to File Suit
You must file suit in the county in which the defendant resides (defendant’s home county), OR the county in which the cause of action took place (county where the services you are complaining about were performed).
To file suit you must submit a small claims petition or complaint with the Justice Court in the proper jurisdiction. The Justice Court is often called the “Justice of the Peace”. The small claims petition or complaint form can be downloaded from the county website or obtained in person by visiting the Justice of the Peace. Generally speaking, the form requires the plaintiff to provide the court with the defendant’s contact information and a brief description of the cause of action. You will be required to pay a filing and process of service fee when submitting the small claims petition with the court. However, if you win the case, the court will order the defendant to pay the court costs you incurred.
Once your petition is filed with the court, the defendant will be served notice of the suit and a hearing will be scheduled. Both parties will be sent notice of the hearing date and time. If the defendant fails to show up to the hearing, you will win the case by default and a default judgment will be ordered. If the hearing takes place as planned, both parties will be asked to briefly state their case. The hearing is somewhat informal since the judge speaks directly to the parties. After hearing both sides of the story, the judge will ask each party follow-up questions, then render his or her decision. At the end of the hearing the county clerk will give each party a copy of the signed order for their records.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.