New York Small Claims Court

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2023Fact Checked

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2023Fact Checked

If you have a legal dispute in New York that involves damages or property worth less than $3,000, you should file your lawsuit in New York small claims court. The streamlined, simple, and straightforward small claims process was designed to help people with smaller claims avoid tangled and expensive litigation in ordinary civil court. You can represent yourself or use an attorney in New York small claims court; if you are filing the small claim, you are known as the plaintiff; the person or business entity you are filing against is the defendant.

Claim Limit: In New York, claims under $3,000 are heard in small claims court.

Where to File: Where to file your claim depends on where you live in New York. If you live in New York City, you will need to file with the City Civil Court; if you live in a rural area, you will need to file in the local Justice Court; if you live in Nassau or Suffolk County, you will need to file in District Court, except the 1st District; and if you live in any other city, you should file your small claim case in Justice Court.

Types of Cases: Cases covered in New York small claims court include property and monetary disputes that are worth less than $3,000 total. These include landlord/tenant disputes, arguments over contractual obligations, complaints of failure to re-pay money or return property, claims for damages following car accidents or minor personal injuries, and similar small cases that are not of a criminal nature.

Who Can File: Business entities (partnerships and corporations) and individuals may file small claims in the state of New York; individuals must be of legal age (18) in order to file a small claim. Minors must have their parent or legal guardian file a small claim on their behalf.

Forms: Forms vary from court to court, but generally involve filing a complaint laying out the information, type of claim, and details of your case. Make sure to gather related documents and the valid address of the defendant(s) before filing your complaint form. In addition, you may need to file an affidavit if you wish to insist on a jury trial. Check with your local court for more specifics on rules, forms, and filing fees. The clerk of the court can help you with sample forms and fee schedules, though the clerk is not authorized to tell you which forms to file or to advise you on your claim. If you need advice on which forms to file or on any aspect of your small claims case, contact the New York State Bar Association or a legal aid group in your area, or try an experienced New York small claims attorney.

For more state-specific information and links to your state’s small claims court resources, see Small Claims Court Information and Links.

Case Studies: New York Small Claims Court

Case Study 1: Landlord/Tenant Dispute

John, a tenant in New York City, filed a small claim against his landlord for failure to return his security deposit. The claim was worth $2,500, well within the small claims court limit. John represented himself in the court and presented evidence of his lease agreement, move-in and move-out inspection reports, and photographs of the apartment’s condition. The judge ruled in John’s favor, ordering the landlord to return the full deposit amount.

Case Study 2: Contractual Obligations

Mary entered into a contract with a local contractor to remodel her kitchen. After paying the contractor a significant sum upfront, the work was not completed as agreed. Mary decided to file a small claim in the local Justice Court to recover the money she had paid. She presented the contract, communication records, and photographs of the unfinished work as evidence. The court found in favor of Mary and awarded her the amount she paid to the contractor.

Case Study 3: Car Accident Damages

Sarah was involved in a minor car accident in Rochester, New York, where the other driver rear-ended her vehicle. Sarah suffered minor injuries and incurred damages to her car. Since the total value of the damages was below $3,000, Sarah decided to file a small claim against the other driver in the Justice Court.

She provided photographs of the accident scene, repair estimates, and medical bills as evidence. The court awarded Sarah the amount needed to cover her car repairs and medical expenses.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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