Revised August 2010
307 Small Claims Court - Texas
This Guide is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. Please verify and update with your own research.
HOW MUCH CAN I SUE FOR?
In Texas the Small Claims Court has jurisdiction over actions brought for the recovery of money damages that do not exceed $10,000. The court cannot order a party to do anything, or to refrain from doing something. If you need an order to make someone do something or to stop doing something, or if the amount you want to recover is more than $10,000, you will need to file in another court. See: Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 28.003. [Law Texas Collection; 2nd Fl.]
WHERE DO I FILE SUIT?
Generally, you must file the suit in the county where the party being sued, the defendant, resides. The justice of the peace in each county is also the judge for small claims court. The small claims courts are listed in the telephone directory as justices of the peace. If the county has more than one justice of the peace, then you must file your small claim in the court whose precinct covers the area where the party being sued resides. In some situations, you can sue in more than one court. See: Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 15.099. [Law Texas Collection; 2nd Fl.]
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO SUE?
Generally, the filing fee is $31. The court may also charge fees for service of process for defendant(s) and subpoenas of witnesses. If you want a jury trial, you must pay an additional fee. If you win the lawsuit, you can add the filing costs to the amount the defendant owes you. (**The exact procedures followed in each small claims court may be slightly different, and the fees can change and also may vary from one county to another. Call the court and make sure that you have all the necessary information.) See: Tex. Local Gov't Code Ann. §§ 118.121-118.124. [Law Texas Collection; 2nd Fl.]
WHAT KINDS OF CASES CAN I TAKE TO SMALL CLAIMS COURT?
Lawsuits involving contracts, security deposits, personal injuries, and warranties are common in small claims courts. You cannot use a small claims court to file for a divorce, guardianship, name change, or bankruptcy, or to ask for an emergency court order. Suits against the federal government, a federal agency, or a federal employee for actions relating to his or her job must be filed in Federal District Court, which has no small claims procedure.
Anyone over 18 years old can use the court. A minor may use the court by having a parent, relative, or “next friend” over 18 years old accompany him to file a claim and later to go to trial. A business entity such as a partnership or corporation may also file in a small claims court.
If you are sued in small claims court, but you believe that the other party is the one at fault, you can counter-sue if your claim arises out of the same event or transaction. If the amount you sue for is under the small claims limit, your case will stay in that court.
ARE THERE TIME LIMITS ON WHEN I CAN SUE?
All states have “statutes of limitation” which limit the time for suing after an event occurs or, in some instances, is discovered. These rules apply in small claims courts. You should consult the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code for the limitation that would apply to your case. See: Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.001 et seq. [Texas Collection; 2nd Fl.]
IS SMALL CLAIMS COURT PAPERWORK COMPLICATED?
In most states, you can initiate a case by simply filling out a one-page form stating your grievance in general terms. Collect all the information and records that you will need for your lawsuit before you go to the courthouse to start the suit. Ask to see the clerk in charge of filing small claims. Written pleadings are not required in small claims court, but you must complete a small claims statement. After filing the statement, check with the court clerk to see that the defendant has been served and to verify the trial date for your case.
IF I WIN, AM I GUARANTEED PAYMENT?
You, not the court, will have to see that you are paid. It may be inadvisable to sue a person or business who has no money or assets and who is unlikely to acquire any in the foreseeable future. However, court judgments are enforceable for at least 10 years in many states and can usually be renewed. A person with no assets now may inherit money or have some other change of circumstances in the future.
SAMPLE FORMS - SMALL CLAIMS STATEMENT & RELATED INFORMATION
Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 28.012.
8 Tex Jur. Pleading and Practice Forms 2d, Justices of the Peace and Other Inferior Courts Chapter 153, §§ 153.21 – 153.22. [Law Texas Collection; 2nd Floor; KFT 1730 .A65 T482]
WEST'S TEXAS FORMS, Vol. 10, § 33.1, et seq. [Law Texas Collection; 2nd Floor; KFT 1268 .W47]
HELPFUL INTERNET SITES
Dallas County Justice of the Peace Small Claims Court
Collin County Justices of the Peace-- Civil & Small Claims
Denton County Small Claims Suits
How to Sue in Small Claims Court by Prof. Richard M. Alderman, The University of Houston Law Center
How to File a Claim in Small Claims Court, Culpepper & Associates, P.C.