Reference Roundup: Small Claims Cases
October 16, 2023
People often turn to small claims courts to resolve disputes over smaller amounts of money. According to the Office of Court Administration's Annual Statistical Report for FY 2022, there were 246,850 small claims cases on the docket in Texas justice courts in 2022 alone.
Some examples of a small claims lawsuit include:
- A person damaged your property and won’t pay to fix it;
- You sold your car, but the person who bought it hasn’t paid you; or
- You paid a contractor for a job, but they never completed the work.
We've answered your frequently asked questions about small claims in a new series of Legal FAQs. Brief summaries are listed below, but make sure to read the full FAQs for additional information.
Small claims lawsuits cannot exceed $20,000 according to limits set in the Texas Government Code & the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (TRCP). A person who wants to recover more than $20,000 must file their suit in a different court.
Small claims lawsuits must be filed in the Justice of the Peace court in the county and precinct according to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 502.4(b) states that a lawsuit can be filed in the county and precinct where:
- The defendant lives;
- The incident took place;
- The contract was to be performed; or
- The property in question is located.
According to Rule 502.4(c), you can also file the lawsuit in the county and precinct where you live if:
- The defendant lives out of state; or
- The defendant’s residence is unknown.
You are not required to have a lawyer in a small claims case. Justice courts are less formal than the district or county courts and people often represent themselves. However, hiring an attorney can be a good idea in some cases.
You may be able to file your small claims petition online through eFileTexas. Be sure to check with the court clerk for more info on the court’s remote filing policies. Not all counties allow remote filing.
Possibly. Some counties hold all their small claims hearings online, while others do not allow any remote proceedings. You will need to check with the court clerk's office directly for information about their policy.
You do not need to live in Texas to file a small claims suit here, but your case must have some relation to Texas and meet the venue requirements in Rule 502.4(b) of the TRCP.
The procedures for suing a business and suing an individual in small claims court are similar. However, there are some distinctions when it comes to naming the right person in your suit and determining who to serve the papers to.
Find More Information
The library has an extensive Small Claims Cases guide with general information about filing, links to sample forms, and additional resources. We recommend the following publications for getting started on your research:
- How to Sue in Justice Court by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the State Bar of Texas
- Nolo's Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court by Cara O'Neill
- Civil Deskbook by the Texas Justice Court Training Center's
We also recommend speaking to a lawyer if you have any questions about your case. For information on finding an attorney, please see the library's Legal Help page.
We're happy to help you find answers to any additional questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to us for research assistance.