New York Court Help

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Small Claims

Q. How much can I sue for in Small Claims Court?

A. Up to $5,000, except in Town and Village Courts where the limit is $3,000.

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Q. How old do you have to be to file a small claim?

A. You must be at least 18 years old. A parent or guardian must file for you if you are under 18. If the person being sued is not yet 18, you must sue the parent or parents and provide first and last names.

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Q. How do I file a small claim?

A. Go to the Clerks Office (New York City Civil Court, Nassau District or Suffolk District Court, City Court, or Town or Village Court). The Clerk will give you forms. You will need the name and address of the person or business you are suing, the amount you are suing for, and a brief reason why you are suing.

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Q. How much is the filing fee?

A. The fee is $15.00 if you suing for $1,000 or less. It's $20.00 if you are suing for more than $1,000.

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Q. Can I pay for the filing fee with a personal check or credit card?

A. In some courts. Please call the court where you want to file the small claim for more information.

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Q. What does "DBA" mean?

A. "Doing business as."

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Q. What is a "claimant"?

A. A claimant is the person suing in a small claims case. The "defendant" is the person being sued.

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Q. What happens if the person or business I sue doesn't come to court?

A. You will still have to prove your case (for example, bring bills, written receipts, photographs, written estimates) and tell what happened. Then you may receive a "default" judgment.

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Q. If I win my claim, how do I collect my money?

A. If the defendant doesn't pay, you will have to try to collect the money you have won. How you do this depends on how much you know about the defendant's financial situation (pay from work, bank account, motor vehicle, other assets). You may have to file "information subpoenas" (ask the Court Clerk). Or you may need the assistance of a sheriff or city marshal.

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Q. How long do I have to collect my judgment?

A. Twenty years.

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Q. If I don't like a Judge's or a Hearing Officer's decision, can I challenge it?

A. Yes. It's called an "appeal." There are different kinds of appeals. Please ask the Clerk. If you agreed to have your case handled by an "Arbitrator" (someone who isn't a judge), instead of by a Judge or a Hearing Officer, you are not allowed to appeal.

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Q. I heard Court can be stressful and costly. Are there other ways to resolve my dispute?

A. Yes. Mediation is a free or low-cost option for many disputes. Mediation allows you to resolve your dispute outside of court, saving time and money and reducing stress. You also have more control over the outcome. Talk to a lawyer about your particular situation or speak to someone at a local Community Dispute Resolution Center to learn if mediation is right for you.


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