Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court
Read this booklet to learn about Small Claims Court in Connecticut. If you are being sued or thinking about suing in Small Claims Court, read the Connecticut Judicial Branch’s booklet: How Small Claims Court Works. You can get the booklet at most courthouses, all Court Service Centers, and online at http://www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/CV045.pdf.
- What is Small Claims?
- What can I sue for?
- What can't I sue for?
- What forms do I need?
- What happens at the hearing?
- Useful definitions
- Court Service Centers
Small Claims Court has special rules that make representing yourself easier and the process faster. It makes civil (non-criminal) court 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 Section 1 of the court’s booklet, How Small Claims Court Works.
You can sue for an amount of money up to $5,000. Here are some reasons you might sue in Small Claims Court:
- If someone damaged something you own or that you are responsible for, you can sue for the cost of fixing the damage.
- If you bought something that wasn’t delivered and the store won’t give you your money back, you can sue the store for the purchase price.
- If someone borrowed something from you 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 move, you can sue your landlord for the return of your security deposit.
You may be entitled to double your security depositif you gave your landlord your new address in writing and haven’t gotten a response from your landlord after 30 days. Ask for double your security deposit when you complete your Small ClaimsWrit and Notice of Suit (JD-CV-40). Read our booklet, Security Deposits & Rent Increases.
You cannot sue in Small Claims Court for
- anything other than money;
- any amount over $5,000; or
- 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 booklet, Can’t Afford to Pay Court Fees? Ask for a Fee Waiver.
What happens in Small Claims Court?
Here is a quick look at the Small Claims process:
- The person bringing the lawsuit (the plaintiff) fills out a Writ and Notice of Suit form.
- A copy of the Writ and Notice of Suit is delivered to (served on) 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.
- When the plaintiff receives the receipt, the plaintiff brings to the court the Writ and Notice of Suit, the Statement of Service (JD-CV-123), and the filing fee or an Application for Waiver of Fees (JD-CV-120).
- The court assigns an Answer Date and Docket Number to the lawsuit and sends an Answer form to the defendant.
- 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.
- The court assigns a hearing date.
- A hearing (or trial) is held on the scheduled date. The plaintiff and the defendant should bring important witnesses or paperwork to the hearing.
- 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. It 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 you’ll have to start the process all over again.
If you are filing a lawsuit, you are the plaintiff. You will need these forms:
- Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit (JD-CV-40)
- Instructions to Defendant (JD-CV-121)
- How to Serve a Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit (JD-CV-122)
- Statement of Service – (Delivery) Small Claims (JD-CV-123)
To ask for a fee waiver, you will need an Application for Waiver of Fees (JD-CV-120).
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 Center staff can’t answer legal questions or tell you what to say in court, but they can help you fill out forms and answer questions as you go through the Small Claims process.
You and the other party will tell your story to a judge, a magistrate, or a Small Claims Commissioner. That person will decide who wins. Be sure to bring to court any papers or witnesses that are important to your case.
If I don’t like the decision, can I appeal?
You can’t appeal a Small Claims Court decision. 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 money. 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 the judgment to collect the money.
I’m being sued in Small Claims Court. What should I do?
Don’t ignore the lawsuit. If you do nothing, the court could rule against you, and the person who’s suing you could take your income and assets. Read the Instructions to Defendant that came with the lawsuit and the court’s booklet, How Small Claims Court Works, Section 2.
Can I offer to settle the lawsuit?
Settling means that you and the other party have come to an agreement without going to court. Either side can offer to settle at any time. 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 to collect the money from you. Some types 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.
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: A form that 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: When the defendant makes a legal claim against the plaintiff.
Defendant: The person or business that is being sued.
Writ and Notice of Suit: The form used 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. The plaintiff can collect money from the defendant by taking money out of the defendant’s pay (a wage execution), 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 cost of 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 (or review) its decision again. The court will only do this in certain circumstances.
Served, Service, Serve: To give the lawsuit to the person or business you are suing.
Settle: When the plaintiff and the defendant resolve the lawsuit without having a hearing.
Special Defense: When the defendant explains how the plaintiff’s claims are wrong.
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
If you are 60 or over, contact the Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLPE) at 1-800-296-1467.
If you are under 60, contact Statewide Legal Services at 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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