DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is not required
Initial Filing Fee: $15 to $25
In New York, a person may sue to recover an amount less than $5,000 in small claims court. Small claims cases can either be personal or commercial. If you are over 18 years old you can sue for a personal small claim, whereas corporations, associations, partnerships, assignees, etc. must initiate a commercial small claims proceeding. There are special rules for each type of proceeding, and special rules in each county, so it is important to research and note those differences at the outset of your case.
Step 1: Obtain Form from County Court Clerk
Get the right form. Forms differ from county to county, so it is important to make sure you have the paperwork for the right county. Generally speaking, the appropriate county is the county where the parties live and/or where the cause of action (the events over which you are suing) took place. Visit the links below for forms for examples from Western Suffolk County, New York City, and Nassau County:
Step 2: Fill Out the Form
Fill out the form using the proper name and street address of each defendant and claimant involved in the small claims proceeding. If you do not know the correct legal name of one or more defendants, you can use the name you have to begin the proceeding, provided that you obtain the correct information from the County Clerk’s Office soon after beginning the action. The Clerk will serve the defendants with the lawsuit.
Step 3: File the Form in Small Claims Court
File the form once it is completed in the appropriate small claims court. Forms must be filed in person, except in Western Suffolk County. If you are instituting a proceeding in New York City but live outside of New York City, the form can be mailed.
Step 4: Serve the Defendant
Serve the small claims papers to the defendant to notify them of your plan to take legal action against them.
Step 5: Attend the hearing
Attend your court hearing once the clerk has notified you of your hearing date. Once you get the date, you are required to attend the hearing. Bring any related documentation or evidence you might need, including a contract if there is one. If one does not exist, then any emails, communications, or correspondence indicating the nature of the agreement between you and the defendant or defendants can also be presented as evidence.