Small Claims Court Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Small Claims Court, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Small Claims Court?

(n) Small claims court is the segment of law enforcing machinery that hears civil wrongs and disputes involving smaller amount, without adopting the lengthy process of regular courts

History and Meaning of Small Claims Court

Small claims court is a special court designed to resolve disputes involving relatively small amounts of money without the formalities of a regular court. The idea behind small claims court is to provide an easier and more affordable way for people to resolve disputes without having to hire an attorney. Small claims court decisions often cannot be appealed or brought to a higher court.

Small claims courts originated in England in the early 20th century as a way to provide access to justice to individuals who couldn't afford the costs of a regular civil court. The idea quickly spread to other common law jurisdictions, including the United States, where all states now have some form of small claims court.

Examples of Small Claims Court

  1. John is suing his former landlord in small claims court for withholding his security deposit.
  2. Mary is being sued in small claims court by her neighbor for damaging his fence with her car.
  3. Sam is using small claims court to collect $1,500 he's owed by a former business partner.
  4. The small claims court awarded Jane $2,000 in damages for a faulty appliance she purchased from a store.
  5. Peter is seeking $3,000 in damages from a contractor who didn't complete the work he was hired to do.

Legal Terms Similar to Small Claims Court

  • Civil Court: The regular court where most civil disputes are heard.
  • Mediation: A process of dispute resolution where a neutral third party helps the parties reach a settlement.
  • Arbitration: A more formal type of dispute resolution where a neutral third party issues a binding decision.