Through television and other media, small claims court is actually something which most Americans are familiar with. However, for most people, the familiarity only extends to a few basic points and not any kind of deeper understanding. Connecticut dwellers should become acquainted with the ins and outs of small claims court in this great state because this type of court can be very useful in many situations. Let’s explore a few of the essential facts regarding small claims court in Connecticut.
Monetary Limit & Venue Selection in CT
In the State of Connecticut, small claims courts have a monetary limit of $5,000, which means that this is the maximum amount which can be awarded in a given case. The reason for this is because small claims courts are designed to provide expedited results. In Connecticut, no juries are ever present in small claims courts, and so this allows the process to proceed much more quickly. Litigants simply present their case to the judge, and a decision is issued rapidly. If a litigant wishes to extract an award greater than $5,000, he or she must pursue a different court. This is actually one of the more well-known facts about small claims court; most people are aware of the maximum award limit through television.
Small claims courts also follow the same venue selection rules as other courts in Connecticut. This means that, to hear a case, the small claims court must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Basically, this means that the defendant must either reside in the location of the court, or the injury must have occurred in the location of the court. Again, this follows the same pattern as other courts in the state (and throughout the country).
Complaint Deadlines and Attorney Representation
Small claims courts also follow the same statute of limitations complaint deadlines as other courts. In other words, if the statute of limitations for your claim has passed, this applies to small claims courts just as it applies to other courts too. The statute of limitations to file is different for different types of claims, so be sure that you know which rule applies to your claim. For property damage and personal injury cases, the SOL is 2 years, for oral contracts it is 3 years, and for written contracts it is 6 years.
You have the right to be represented by an attorney in small claims court, just as you have in other courts in Connecticut. Corporations involved in small claims disputes must be represented by an attorney.
Default Judgments, Collections & Assorted Facts
If you receive a notice to appear in small claims court to dispute a claim, it is imperative that you respond and make an appearance. You need to show up and dispute the claim, no matter how potentially frivolous, because otherwise you could face a default judgment against you. In other words, you could end up losing the case automatically if you fail to appear, even if you have a potentially viable defense. If you make a claim and succeed, the court will not assist you in collecting the award. This is an important point to keep in mind, because you need to think about the collection potential before you go through with the suit. You don’t want to pursue the matter all the way through small claims court and then have no reasonable expectation to actually collect.
Due to its relatively simple nature, small claims court is ideal for certain types of cases, including cases involving back rent, broken or damaged personal property, car accidents, and so forth. The evidence rules are much simpler, which makes the burden for claimants easier to deal with. There is no transcript of the proceedings, and claimants do not have the right to appeal the decision. This is another important point to keep in mind: the decision is final, and so be fully prepared before you bring the matter to court.
Reach Out to Learn More
This provides a good overview of the small claims court process here in the State of Connecticut. In the future, we may come back and dive into this further, but this is a good introduction. If you’d like to learn more, or if you have a case for small claims court, reach out to the Apex Law Firm today at 860-900-0900.