By Linda Calder
It is not uncommon for a client to come to us with a claim that he or she is owed a sum of money. Unfortunately, while the claim may be perfectly valid, depending on the amount of the claim, the costs of litigation could consume much or all of the recovery that might be had in a conventional lawsuit. In cases where the claim is for $5,000 or less, our suggestion is frequently that the client simply take the matter to Small Claims Court, where the filing fees are minimal and the procedures are simplified. The court provides the forms, serves the defendant, and the process is expeditious.
There are Suffolk County District Courts for the five Western towns in the county: Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip and Smithtown. Each of them has a Small Claims part with jurisdiction of claims up to $5,000. The defendant must reside, be employed or have a business within the Town where the suit is brought. The place where the Plaintiff resides, does business or the debt arose is not pertinent to which District Court you would select: look at where the Defendant lives or works. If you, the Plaintiff, are a corporation, you would bring a Commercial Claim, rather than a Small Claim, but the rules are largely the same. The chief differences are that a corporation cannot commence more than 5 such claims per month, it must serve a demand letter if it is suing an individual on a consumer transaction and it must be represented by an attorney.
There are no District Courts in the five Eastern towns of Suffolk County. However, you can bring a Small Claim of up to $3,000 in the Town Justice Courts for East Hampton, RIverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton or Southold. These courts, too, have low filing fees and simplified, informal procedures.
Any questions? Give us a call: we’re here to help.