How Do I File Suit in St. Louis, Missouri Small Claims Court?

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The St. Louis Small Claims Division handles lawsuits of up to $5,000. Any person or business that is owed money can file a suit. The plaintiff (the party filing the suit) can seek attorney representation, but it is not required.

Filing must be done in person at the court, and court clerks are available to help people fill out their forms and pleas. Clerks cannot provide legal advice, only general information. The requirements for filing are the same throughout Missouri, but the fees are different depending on the county of filing.

Small Claims in St. Louis

The St. Louis County Small Claims Division allows individuals with claims of $5,000 or less to sue someone in court with or without an attorney. Court clerks will help those filing when filling out the forms necessary for presenting their claim or counterclaim. When filing, applicants must fill out a small claims petition, a cover sheet, and a confidential information document.

Small claims cases must be filed in person unless the person filing them lives out of state. Attorneys who file a claim for a client must eFile them. However, an individual can file the documents themselves and have their attorney enter an appearance (present a legal document to the court saying that that an attorney represents them) after initiating the case, if that's what they prefer.

The following plaintiffs can file suits in small claims court:

  • Those who are personally owed money.
  • Authorized employee or company officer filing for corporations or unincorporated associations that are owed money.
  • Person under 18, if accompanied by a "next friend," an individual who is 18 or older acting on the minor's behalf.
  • Person who has filed no more than 12 claims in one calendar year.

Determining Where to File a Claim

A person filing a small claims case must do so in the county where one of these conditions exist:

  • At least one defendant resides.
  • At least one plaintiff resides.
  • At least one defendant may be found and served.
  • The events of the case occurred.

If a person sues a business, they can file in the county of the company where the events of the case occurred or in the county of the business' registered agent. If the business is a corporation not located in Missouri, the person can file in the county where the events of the case occurred.

The address of the Small Claims Division for St. Louis County is: 105 South Central Avenue, Clayton, Missouri, 63105. Hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is also a small claims court in the city of St. Louis at 10 North Tucker Blvd. St. Louis, Missouri, 63101.

Having the Correct Name and Address

The correct legal name and address of the person or company an individual wants to sue are essential when filing a small claims form. A person suing another individual must use that person's full name when applying.

If they are suing a business, they can obtain its correct name and the name of its owner or the name of the person responsible for accepting legal service for that business (the registered agent) from the Missouri Secretary of State's office.

If the business is a partnership, the individual suing that company must find the partner's names and serve the small claims notice to each of them individually. Not having the correct legal name of the company or person being sued can either result in a person not being able to collect the judgment if they win or a dismissal of the claim.

Service of Documents and Correct Venue

The defendant (the party being sued) receives notification of the suit by service, so it is essential that the plaintiff gets their address correct when filing the form. If they don't, the court will require them to pay additional fees for another summons, and the plaintiff will have to wait longer for the court to hear their case.

Knowing the defendant's correct address also ensures that the plaintiff is suing in the right small claims court, known as "having proper venue." If a person files in the wrong county, the court will dismiss their case without prejudice, meaning they will have to refile in the correct county and pay court costs a second time.

Determining the Right Amount of Claim

In Missouri, a plaintiff can sue for $5,000 or less in small claims court with or without an attorney. When deciding on the amount of the claim, they may calculate the amount of money they spent or lost due to the issue, which depends on any number of circumstances.

For example, if the individual was involved in a car accident and sues the defendant for property damages to their vehicle, they may sue for money that equals the amount they spent on a rental vehicle, medical bills or vehicle damage.

The plaintiff will need receipts to show their losses and should bring any documents to the court that help them explain the issues. With these documents, the court clerk's office can help them fill out the necessary forms.

Fees for Small Claims Court Cases in St. Louis

Plaintiffs must pay a filing fee, plus costs for serving the petition at the time they file the small claims action. The small claims filing fee is $20.50 and $36.00 for serving each defendant if the St. Louis County Sheriff services the summons. Service by certified mail is $10.00.

If filing in the city of St. Louis, the fee is $80.50 and $36.00 for serving each defendant if the St. Louis County Sheriff services the summons. Service by certified mail is $10.04.

Location for Service

A plaintiff cannot serve a defendant at a P.O. box. They must have a full, physical address to serve the summons, no matter how they choose to do it. A plaintiff who wants to serve a defendant at their place of work cannot use certified mail.

While the process is the same across all Missouri small claims courts, the filing fees per city or county are not – a party filing in another city or county must contact the sheriff's office in that location for service by a sheriff in that other county to find out their fee and if they have to pay in advance.