Small Claims Jurisdiction

WHAT TYPES OF KINDS OF CASES CAN BE FILED IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT?

Here are some examples of cases you can file in Small Claims Courts:

•    Personal injury (to a human being)

•    Damage to personal property (including animals and pets)

•    Landlord and tenant disputes for failure to pay rent or other violations of the lease and for damages to the rental unit or return of the damage deposit

•    Damage to real property and real estate

•    Money owed (loans, bad checks, wages earned but not paid, services provided but not paid, accounts receivable, etc.)

•    Return of wrongfully taken or wrongfully retained personal property

•    Refund for money paid for faulty work or repairs

Here are some examples of cases you cannot file in Small Claims Courts:

•    Dissolution (divorce), paternity or child custody or visitation or to enforce any part of the divorce decree or order

•    Actions requesting injunctive relief or declarative relief  (asking the Court to make someone do something or stop doing something)

•    Mortgage foreclosures and many other issues related to the sale of real estate such as contracts for the sale of real estate by installment payments including land contracts or to remove someone who refuses to leave after the sale of real estate

•    Many issued related to wills, trusts and the estates of deceased persons

•    Any claims asking for more than $6000.00

If your claim involves issues that arose in a dissolution case (divorce) or a paternity case (child custody or visitation), then it is likely your current claim or dispute must be heard in that original case.  

If you want to sue someone in Small Claims Court on behalf of the estate of a deceased person, you must first be authorized by the Circuit Court to legally represent the estate.   You may want to speak with an attorney to see how to do this.

If you want to sue the estate of a deceased person in Small Claims Court, you may want to speak with an attorney to see how to do this.

If the issues you want to sue for now are related to a case that has already been heard by or already filed in another court, you likely cannot file another claim in Small Claims Court.   Usually, you must bring all related issues – including counterclaims -- in one court case to be heard by one court.

 HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I SUE FOR IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT?

Small Claims Courts have the authority to hear certain cases when the dollar amount you are suing for is $6,000.00 or less.   This is the maximum amount a Small Claims Court can award to a party and includes pre-judgment interest and attorney fees (but not court costs).   

If you want the Defendant to be ordered to pay you more than $6,000.00, you cannot file your case in Small Claims Court.  You must file your case in another court. 

If you want to keep your case on the Small Claims Docket, you will waive or forego any amount over $6,000.00.  If you keep your case on the Small Claims Docket, you cannot later file another case for the rest of your claim that is over $6000.00.    

For example:   the Defendant crashed into your car and it will cost $8,400.00 to repair or replace your car.  You want to keep your case in the Small Claims Court.  You can only ask for and the Judge can only order a total judgment of $6,000.00.   You cannot file two separate cases, one for $6,000.00 and one for $2,400.00.

If you file on the Plenary Docket, then the informal Small Claims Rules do not apply.   The Plenary Docket requires formal legal procedures and pleadings and strict compliance with all statutes, laws, deadlines, trial rules and evidence rules.   While you may still represent yourself in a Plenary Docket case, it would be very difficult to do so effectively if you are not a trained and licensed attorney.   If you choose to represent yourself in a Plenary Docket Court, the Judge cannot give you any special consideration or help because you are not an attorney.  Therefore, the Court strongly recommends you hire an attorney for cases you file on the Plenary Docket.

For more information, see the Small Claims Manual linked here.     Tippecanoe County Small Claims Manual.