If you want to settle a dispute without paying expensive attorney fees, consider filing a small claims court case in Connecticut. This blog post will explain how Small Claims Court works in Connecticut.
Small Claims Court is a division of the Connecticut Superior Court that handles civil disputes between individuals and businesses with damages of $5,000 or less. In the following circumstances, the court may award you more than $5,000:
- If you are suing your landlord to have them return your security deposit
- If you are suing on a home improvement contract.
What is a Small Claim Case?
A small claims case is a legal proceeding filed in a local court of law. Disputes can include unpaid debts, personal injuries, or damaged property. A small claims case differs from other types of lawsuits because it has much lower filing fees, simplified procedures, and limits on how much money the court can award at the end of the trial.
How Does the Connecticut Small Claims Court Work?
The small claims court handles disputes between citizens who cannot resolve their issues through other means. Lawyers are not allowed to represent parties at the hearing. There are no jury trials. Instead, it’s a simplified process where the plaintiff and defendant each offer their side of the case and then go home with a decision from the judge.
Before Small Claims Court
Did you know you have one more option before small claims court? Before filing a claim, you can send a letter demanding payment. Some states, like Connecticut, require that you formally demand payment before filing a case in small claims court. Demand letters often allow people to resolve disputes outside of court and avoid the time and fees associated with court. If you have yet to try this option, read more about how to write an effective demand letter and how best to send it to the person who owes you money. Alternatively, you can use tools such as JusticeDirect to generate and send a custom demand letter for free and leave the headache out!
To file your case, you will submit the Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit (form JD-CV-40), along with the Statement of Service, either by mail, online, or in person at the proper Small Claims Court in Connecticut. Or, if you hire a proper officer to file your case, they will file the forms with the court.
Where to File
- If you are a person and not a business, you can file your case in a court located in one of the following places: where you live, where the defendant lives or does business, or where the incident that led to your claim occurred.
- If you are a business, you must file your case in a court where the defendant lives or works or where the incident that led to your claim occurred.
- If your claim involves a landlord-tenant matter, you must file in the court location nearest to where the property is located.
Remember that you can only sue a person in Connecticut Small Claims Court who does not reside in Connecticut if that person owns property in Connecticut. Finally, when the Small Claims Writ and Notice of Suit is completed, you must sign it and have it notarized.
Once you have identified the town or city where you will file, you can find the locations of the small claims courts on the Connecticut Small Claims Court website or by calling 860-263-2734.
When you file, you will need to pay a filing fee of $95.
Serving the Defendant
Once you have filed your complaint, you must serve the defendant with a copy. Serving the defendant makes them aware that you have filed a case against them, so they must respond accordingly and attend the hearing.
You have different options when serving the defendant, which may differ depending on your county court’s allowable options. Some options may have a fee, but if you win the case, it will become reimbursable by the other party.
You may be able to serve through:
- A professional process service
- Certified mail
- The county’s sheriff/marshall
You may also have a friend/family member serve the complaint if it’s allowed by the court. Most importantly, you cannot do it yourself if you are a party in the case.
After serving each defendant, you must complete a Statement of Service (Delivery) Small Claims (form JD-CV-123) to confirm the service. You can get the form online or at any small claims court location in Connecticut.
The defendant then has 20 days to file an answer with the court. After the defendant has filed an answer, the court will set a date for a hearing. At the hearing, both sides can present evidence and witnesses. The judge will then decide based on the evidence presented at the hearing.
The court will issue a judgment if the two parties cannot reach an agreement. The party who loses the case can then appeal the decision within 30 days.
The Court Hearing
After filing the complaint, the court will schedule a hearing for the case. It will typically be several weeks to months from the date of filing.
Both parties can present their case and any evidence they have to support their claims. The judge will listen to both sides and decide based on the law and the evidence presented.
The Magistrate might announce the decision in court. If not, you will receive a notice from the court informing you of the decision. Even if you disagree with the Magistrate’s decision, the decision is final and cannot be appealed.
Enforcing the Judgment
If the judge rules in your favor, they will award a judgment that the defendant will have to pay; this is a formal way for the court to indicate that the defendant now owes you money. You are responsible for collecting your money from the defendant. The court will not pay you directly. If the defendant does not pay the judgment voluntarily, you may collect on it, including garnishing the defendant’s wages or seizing their assets.
Is there a limit to how much money you can get in Connecticut’s small claims court?
- Individuals or businesses represented by an individual: $5,000
- Businesses: $5,000
If you filed more than two cases in the same calendar year, you can only sue for $2,500 or less in subsequent cases.
How do I start?
Filing a small claims complaint by the plaintiff (the party suing) initiates small claims litigation. The plaintiff must briefly state the justifications for the claim against the defendant in the complaint, which must be visible (the person being sued).
What is the deadline for filing your claim?
In Connecticut, cases must be filed within a certain amount of time, called a statute of limitation. In each case, you must calculate the time limit from when the other party broke the contract or caused damage/injury/fraud. More information on Connecticut statutes of limitations can be found in Chapter 926 of the Connecticut General Statutes.
What happens if you don’t attend Connecticut Small Claims Court?
If the plaintiff doesn’t appear at the hearing or notify the court of the reason for the absence, the court has several options. The judge may:
- Reschedule the case
- Dismiss the case with prejudice
- Dismiss the case without prejudice
- If the defendant appears, the judge may enter a judgment against you after considering the defendant’s evidence.