A small claims case is a legal action filed in county court to settle minor legal disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is $8,000 or less, excluding costs, interest, and attorney fees. Small claims court is considered “the people’s court”, and a lawyer is not required. The action must have arisen in Polk County or the defendant must reside in Polk County in order for the court to have jurisdiction.
Any person(s) 18 years or older or any individual(s) doing business as a company may file a small claims case. A parent or guardian may file on behalf of a minor child. Each person who is a party to the claim must appear at the Clerk’s office to sign necessary paperwork in the presence of a deputy Clerk. Documents not signed in front of the Clerk require notarized signatures.
Clerk employees cannot give legal advice, however Clerk’s office personnel will provide you with the necessary forms for filing a small claims case. Answers to commonly asked small claims questions are available on our website’s frequently asked questions section.
Filing a Claim
If you choose to file a claim, you must file the items listed below as well as the appropriate filing fee and service fee at any of our locations. You can access forms in our document center or obtain them from any office location.
To file a suit in County Court Civil you will need:
- Statement of Claim - The original, one copy for plaintiff, plus one copy for each defendant. The plaintiff (s) and defendant (s) complete name, address, zip code, and telephone number must be furnished at the time of filing your claim pursuant to Small Claims Rule 7.50 (b).
- Statement of Claim in Replevin – The original, one copy for plaintiff, plus two copies for each defendant. The plaintiff (s) and defendant (s) complete name, address, zip code, and telephone number must be furnished at the time of filing your claim pursuant to Small Claims Rule 7.050 (b).
- Evidence- A copy for the court file and a copy for each defendant.
- If the Plaintiff does not furnish the required copies, there will be a charge of $1.00 per page for all copies made by the Clerk.
Note: All prepared documents must be legible.
The defendant(s) name, address, and phone number must be included at the time of filing. For claims against a corporation, the officer's name representing the corporation is required. If your claim is against a sole proprietorship, the name of the owner is needed. Include a copy of any supporting documents to your claim and provide the Clerk's office with an additional copy for each defendant being served.
What to Expect After Filing
Once a claim has been filed, a pretrial and mediation hearing will be scheduled. You should not bring witnesses to this hearing. If your claim is improperly served, or if the defendant refused to accept registered mail, or defendant was unable to be located, you may request the claim be reset for pretrial and service can again be attempted at your expense. You or your attorney, should you choose to have one, will be required to be present for all hearings to avoid your claim being dismissed or having judgement entered against you.
If a settlement is not reached at pretrial, a trial will be scheduled for a later date, at which time you should bring witnesses and any evidence having a bearing on your claim.
After a Judgement is Rendered
If a judgment is rendered in your favor or a default judgment is entered upon the failure of the defendant to appear at the hearing, you may apply at any of the above offices for a certified copy of the final judgment and a writ of execution. Judgments accrue interest per year, not compounded, at a rate set by Florida Statues.
You may record a certified copy of the final judgment in the public records in Polk County or in any county in Florida in which the defendant resides or owns real property. Upon recording your judgment, you will have a possible lien upon any real property the defendant owns or may own within the next 10 years. You would need to check with the Clerk’s Office in regard to extending the lien beyond 10 years.
A Writ of Execution can be issued 10 days after the judgment is rendered. Visit the Florida Department of State website for information to levy on property. There is no charge in the Clerk’s Office for issuing the writ of execution but the Sheriff’s Office charges a fee for processing and requires a deposit for cost before a levy will be made.
A garnishment may be filed against the defendant’s wages if he is not the head of a family, against his bank account, or against a third party having in his possession money or other property belonging to the defendant.
After entry of final judgment, recording of the judgment, issuance of the Writ of Execution, issuance of Record of Unsatisfied Judgment, if applicable, or the issuance of a Writ of Garnishment, there is no further assistance this Court can render in connection with your claim. The final judgment can be enforced only as described above. This office has no facilities to assist you in locating property of the defendant and cannot guarantee collection of amounts which may be found due and owing to you.