Small claims courts in New York handle cases with $5,000 or less at stake. These courts operate according to state laws, so the process is uniform wherever you are within its borders. Common small claims cases include a failure to repay a loan, honor the terms of a service contract and fix an item.
Eligibility to File
You can file a small claims suit in a New York if you are 18 or older and the amount requested is under the state limits. Younger individuals must have a parent or guardian file on their behalf. An individual may file suit against other individuals, corporations, associations or partnerships.
Filing a Suit
Bring the case to a Small Claims Court in the county where you or the defendant lives, works or has a business. File a statement of claim in the court clerk's office. On this form, briefly explain the reason for the case, state the amount you are requesting and provide the defendant's name and address. Provide the correct name and address to help avoid delays and reduce the possibility that the case will be dismissed. If you are not sure of a company's proper name, get a copy of its certificate of doing business from the county clerk's office and have it with you on the day of the trial. You also can file your case electronically through third party companies, such as nCourt and Intresys TurboCourt.
Paying Court Fees
Pay for the court filing with cash, a bank or cashier's check, or a money order. New York's Small Claims courts do not accept personal checks. Address checks to "Clerk of the Civil Court." As of this writing, the filing fee is $15 for claims up to $1,000 and $20 for claims from $1,001 to $5,000. The clerk will set a court date when you submit the filing.
Serving the Defendant
The clerk of the court will mail two notifications of the case to the defendant - one by regular mail and the other by certified mail. The court assumes the defendant received notice of the proceedings if the notice sent by regular mail is not returned within 21 days. The court will allow you to arrange delivery of the notice if the post office cannot deliver it. You must choose a third party who is 18 or older and not involved in the case. Your case will be canceled if the notice is not delivered within four months.