A Small Claims case is a legal action filed in County Court to settle a claim or minor legal dispute in which, the demand for monies or the value of property does not exceed $5,000.00 (five thousand dollars), excluding costs,interest and attorney fees.
Common types of actions handled by Small Claims Court include goods or services sold, money loans, auto negligence, security deposit refunds and unpaid rent (not to include evictions). The Clerk's office has specialized forms for each of these types of actions. These forms are also available online, HERE.
Requirements to File a Small Claims Case:
You must be at least 18 years of age.
You may be an individual, a person "doing business as" (dba) or a corporation.
A minor child must have a parent or legal guardian file on his/her behalf.
Small Claims court is considered a "people's court" and a lawyer is not required. However, you may wish to consult with an attorney if there are complex legal issues or, you need legal advice on your rights and obligations.
The Clerk's staff cannot provide you with legal advice. You may seek affordable legal assistance at our Self Help Center. For more information, click HERE
Self Help Center Video
The Self Help Centers in the Clearwater Courthouse, North County Branch and St. Petersburg Judicial Building can help citizens with legal issues about Small Claims Court disputes, divorce and landlord tenant issues when they are not represented by an attorney. For further information, visit our Self Help Center page.
How to File a Small Claims Case - Part 1
Explains what a Small Claims Court legal action is, and how and where to file. This video provides guidelines for preparing and filling out the pre-trial paperwork.
How to File a Small Claims Case - Part 2
(Pre-trial & Mediation) Explains with step-by-step examples how the Small Claims Court and the mediation process work and what you can expect at the Pre-trial hearing and mediation
The "How to Win in Small Claims Court in Florida" book by Mark Warda, Attorney at Law,
available in the Law Library located at 324 S. Ft. Harrison Ave., Clearwater, FL 33756, or your
public library may have a copy.
Forms, Documents and Information Needed to File a Small Claims Case:
Copies of all documents filed provided for each defendant
(The original documents are maintained in the court file.)
You must know the correct names of all of the people or companies that you are filing your claim against.
Cases filed incorrectly may be difficult if not impossible to collect judgments. The correct name of a
corporation can be obtained from the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations
at www.sunbiz.org. Obtain
the name and address of the registered agent for proper service of summons. Information on an
individual or a partnership doing business as a company can be obtained by contacting the Florida
Department of State Division of Corporations.
The Clerk's Self Help Center for affordable legal services offers limited attorney consultations to pro se or self-represented litigants (i.e. those people who do not plan to have an attorney represent them in court).
A: Filing fees for Small Claims actions are
determined by Florida Statutes and Pinellas County Ordinances, and are subject to change.
A current "Schedule of Service Charges" is
available on this website, as well as in any Clerks Office for your information.
Additional fees are required to serve the parties you are suing. You may contract with a Private Process Server to have the summons served or send it via certified mail. A list of private process servers compiled by the Pinellas County Sheriff's office is available here.
If you need the
Sheriff of another county to serve your notice, you will need to check their
requirements and the address to which the notice should be sent.
Certified mail service cannot
be used as method of service outside the state of Florida. However, a post office box, if it is
within the state of Florida, can be used to serve via certified mail.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I FILE MY SMALL CLAIMS CASE?
A: The pre-trial will be set within 50 days of filing, usually within
3 to 4 weeks. You will be sent
by mail your pre-trial date and time within 7 days of filing. Each person or business you are
suing must be served with a Summons to appear in court on the date and time the pre-trial is
You can check to see if a party has been served by reviewing the case docket online,
should state either "NOTICE RETURNED SERVED" or "NOTICE RETURNED NOT SERVED". If the docket
shows a "NO SERVICE LETTER ISSUED", this means a letter was sent to the plaintiff explaining
why the case was continued. If you need to serve the party again, a written request to the Clerk
A: Both parties must appear at the pre-trial
or have an attorney appear for them. You should be prepared to present your case to the
court at the pre-trial. If the dispute cannot be settled at this time, a trial date will be
scheduled by the court for your case to be heard.
Witnesses can be subpoenaed for the trial. A trial by jury may be requested by the
plaintiff upon written demand when the case is filed or by the defendant within
5 days after service of Notice to Appear at pre-trial.
Requesting another pre-trial date must be done in writing. Your case number and signature
must be on the request.
When the case is filed, it is only assigned either "NPC" (designating the Clearwater Courthouse
location) or "SPC" (designating the St. Petersburg location). A judge will not be assigned until
you go to pre-trial and either a trial is set or an Order is signed.
At the trial you will have an opportunity to explain your case to the judge, ask the
person(s) you are suing any questions
concerning your claim, present your
documentation as discussed at the pre-trial
conference and call on your witnesses to help
explain your case.
The Pinellas County Clerk of the Court has produced a helpful video about Pre-trial and Mediation:
Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO MY CASE IF A SETTLEMENT IS REACHED?
A: If, at any time in the proceedings a
settlement is reached between the parties,
the plaintiff [person(s) who filed suit] must
notify the Clerk of the Circuit Court's Office,
in writing, of the settlement. If a court date
has been scheduled, the judge before whom
the case is set should be notified.
If, "A Stipulation to Stay Entry of judgment" was entered into at the pretrial, but the defendants
have not complied with it, in order to get a judgment: A sworn (notarized) statement is needed per paragraph 2 of the Stipulation stating
what is left due and owing. The amount cannot exceed the amount of the Stipulation. Once
we receive this "Affidavit of Balance Due", the Clerk prepares the Final judgment
and sends it to the Judge for signature. Copies will be mailed to both parties.
Q: HOW CAN I COLLECT MY JUDGMENT?
A: Although, the court does not collect money damages for
you, a judgment lien can be placed against the defendant's name by sending a
written request to the Clerk of the Circuit Court to record a certified copy of your
Judgment as a Judgment Lien. Fees for recording are set by statute and are subject
to change by legislative action. Refer to the current
"Schedule of Service Charges"
available on this website, as well as in any Clerk's Office for additional information.
Other methods of collecting include garnishing wages or bank accounts and levying on an execution.
You may also find useful information
about "Collecting the Judgment",
on this website.
A Small Claims case may be filed with the
Clerk of the Circuit Court at any one of the
locations listed below. Please Note: For faster and more efficient service all paperwork being mailed should be sent to the Civil Court Records address.
Effective February 17, 2009, documents will be processed and recorded at the Clearwater and St. Petersburg courthouse locations. For your convenience, documents may be
dropped off at the North County and Clerk's Tyrone Branch offices to be forwarded to the Clearwater and St. Petersburg courthouse locations for recording. Please include a
self-addressed envelope with your documents.