Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court
Read this article to find out about Small Claims Court in Connecticut. If you are being sued or thinking about suing in Small Claims Court, read Connecticut Judicial Branch’s booklet “How Small Claims Court Works.”
What is Small Claims Court?
Small Claims Court has special rules that make representing yourself easier and the process faster. It makes civil court (non-criminal) available to the average person without a lawyer.
Do I need a lawyer?
You can hire a lawyer, but you don’t have to.
Who can I sue?
You can sue people and businesses.
There are special rules for suing a business. Read the court’s booklet, “How Small Claims Court Works,” Section 1.
What can I sue for?
You can sue for money up to $5000. Here are some reasons you might sue in Small Claims Court:
- If someone damaged something you own or you are responsible for, you can sue for the cost of fixing the damage.
- If you bought something which wasn’t delivered, and the store won’t give you your money back, you can sue the store for the purchase price.
- If a friend borrowed something, and didn’t return it after you asked for it, you can sue for the value of the object.
- If your landlord doesn’t return your security deposit after you moved, you can sue for the return of your security deposit.
You may be entitled to DOUBLE your security deposit if you gave your landlord your forwarding address in writing, and after 30 days haven’t gotten any response from your landlord. Make sure to ask for double your security deposit when you complete your Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit. Read Legal Aid’s article, Security Deposits & Rent Increases.
What can’t I sue for?
You cannot sue in Small Claims Court for:
- anything other than money
- any amount more than $5000
- for slander, libel or harassment
Is there a cost?
There is a filing fee. If you can’t afford the fee, ask the clerk or court service center staff about a Fee Waiver. See our article: Can’t Afford to Pay Court Fees?
What happens in Small Claims Court?
Here is a quick look at the Small Claims process.
1. A Writ and Notice of Suit form is filled out by the person bringing the lawsuit (the Plaintiff).
2. A copy of the Writ and Notice of Suit is delivered to (served) the person or business being sued (the Defendant). The Defendant must sign a receipt when the Writ and Notice of Suit is received. The receipt is returned to the Plaintiff.
3. When the Plaintiff receives the receipt, the Plaintiff brings to the court the Writ and Notice of Suit, Statement of Service (JD-CV-123), and filing fee or an Application for Waiver of Fees.
4. The court assigns an Answer Date and Docket Number to the lawsuit, and sends an Answer form to the Defendant.
5. The Defendant fills out the Answer form and may also file a Counterclaim or a Special Defense. The Defendant sends these papers to the court and to the Plaintiff.
6. The court assigns a Hearing Date.
7. A Hearing (trial) is held on the scheduled date. The Plaintiff and the Defendant bring any important witnesses or paperwork to the hearing.
8. After the Hearing, the court will mail its decision to the Plaintiff and the Defendant.
Don’t file or answer a Small Claims lawsuit until you read the court’s booklet, “How Small Claims Court Works.” The booklet gives specific instructions about filing and answering a Small Claims lawsuit. The booklet is available at most courthouses, all Court Service Centers, and online at http://www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/CV045.pdf. If you make mistakes, the Clerk’s Office may return the paperwork to you and ask you to correct it and start the process all over again.
What forms do I need to file a Small Claims Court lawsuit?
If you are filing a lawsuit, you are the Plaintiff. You will need these forms:
JD-CV-40 - Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit
JD-CV-121 - Instructions to Defendant
JD-CV-122 - How to Serve a Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit
JD-CV-123 - Statement of Service – Small Claims
To ask for a fee waiver, you need:
JD-CV-120 - Application for Waiver of Fees
Where do I get the forms I need to file a Small Claims lawsuit?
You can get the forms at most courthouses, all Court Service Centers, or online at www.jud.ct.gov/webforms
If you need help filling out the forms, contact one of the Court Service Centers. Phone numbers and directions to the Court Service Centers can be found online at http://jud.ct.gov/csc/loc.htm. The Court Service Centers can’t answer legal questions or tell you what to say in court, but they can help you fill out forms, and answer other questions as you go through the Small Claims process.
What happens at the Hearing?
You and the other party will tell your story to the Judge, Magistrate or Small Claims Commissioner. That person will decide who wins. Be sure to bring any papers or witnesses that are important to your case with you to court.
If I don’t like the decision can I Appeal?
You can’t appeal a Small Claims Court decision. But you may be able to Reopen a Small Claims Court decision within four months. Talk to someone at a Court Service Center or call Statewide Legal Services for more information.
If I win, how do I get the money I’m owed?
You are responsible for collecting any money the other party owes you. If the Defendant doesn’t pay, you can go through the court to collect the Judgment. Read the court’s booklet “How Small Claims Court Works,” Section 6.
How long do I have to collect the money?
You have 10 years from the date of Judgment to collect the money.
I’m being sued in Small Claims Court, what do I do?
Don’t ignore the lawsuit. If you do nothing, the court could rule against you and your income and assets could be taken by the person who’s suing you. Read the Instructions to Defendant that came with the lawsuit. Read the court’s booklet “How Small Claims Court Works,” Section 2.
Can I make an offer to settle the lawsuit?
Either side can offer to settle at any time. Settling means that you and the other party have come to an agreement without going to court. To settle, the Plaintiff must receive the money before the Hearing Date. If the money is not received, the Hearing will be held.
What happens if I don’t pay the Judgment?
If you don’t pay the Judgment, the Plaintiff can ask the court for an order called an Execution and collect the money from you. Some kinds of income and assets are protected by law. The Plaintiff has 10 years to collect the Judgment. Read the court’s booklet, “How Small Claims Court Works,” Section 6.
Some useful definitions:
Answer - The Defendant’s written response to the lawsuit.
Answer Date - The day the Defendant’s response is due to the court.
Application for Waiver of Fees - Asks the court to let you file your lawsuit without paying the Filing Fee.
Clerk’s Office - The place in the courthouse where you can find all the information about your lawsuit.
Counterclaim - The Defendant makes a legal claim against the Plaintiff.
Defendant - The person or business who is being sued.
Writ and Notice of Suit - The name of the form you will use to start a lawsuit. It is also referred to as the “Complaint.”
Docket Number - The number the Court gives the lawsuit for identification and tracking purposes.
Execution - A court order to collect money awarded in court. Plaintiffs can collect from the Defendant by taking money out of the Defendant’s pay (a wage execution), or by putting a lien on the Defendant’s property (a property execution), or by taking money out of the Defendant’s bank account (a bank execution).
Filing, File - To give the lawsuit to the court.
Filing Fee - The charge for filing a lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
Hearing - When you go to court to argue your case.
Hearing Date - The date the court picks to hold a Hearing.
Judgment - The Small Claims Court’s final decision.
Plaintiff - The person who files the lawsuit.
Reopen a lawsuit - To ask the court to look at its decision again. (The court will only do this in certain circumstances.)
Served, Service, Serve - Giving the lawsuit to the person or business you are suing.
Settle - The Plaintiff and the Defendant resolve the lawsuit without having a Hearing.
Special Defense - The Defendant explains how the Plaintiff’s claims are wrong.
Court Service Centers
Ansonia-Milford Judicial District courthouse, 1st floor, (203) 283-8260
Danbury Judicial District courthouse, Lower Level, (203) 207-8766
Fairfield Judicial District courthouse, 1st floor, (203) 579-7210
Hartford Family Court, 2nd floor, (860) 706-5064
Meriden Judicial District courthouse, 2nd floor, (203) 238-6499
Middlesex Judicial District courthouse, 1st floor, (860) 343-6499
New Britain Judicial District courthouse, 2nd floor, (860) 515-5151
New Haven Judicial District courthouse, 1st floor, (203) 503-6819
Norwich Judicial District courthouse, 2nd floor, (860) 823-0857
Stamford Judicial District courthouse, 4th floor, (203) 965-5297
Tolland Judicial District courthouse, 1st floor, (860) 896-4945
Waterbury Judicial District courthouse, 1st floor, (203) 591-3308
This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 1/2012. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. Please call Statewide Legal Services or contact an attorney for additional help. © January 2012
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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