What Is a Small Claims Court in Connecticut?
In Connecticut, a Small Claims Court is a civil division of the Connecticut Superior Court. Small Claims Courts have limited jurisdiction over civil cases involving money damages not more than $5000. The court may sometimes award money damages of more than $5000; for instance, where the court's award cost or double damages in a security deposit case. Small Claims Courts have the jurisdiction to hear and enter judgment for the following cases:
- Return of security deposit
- Back rent
- Broken or damaged property
- Unpaid claims
- Motor vehicle accidents
- A written or verbal contract
- Hospital bills for medical treatment
- Other claims seeking $5,000 or less.
However, the Connecticut Small Claims Courts lacks jurisdiction to hear the following cases:
- Libel or slander
- Any claims seeking more than $5,000
How Do Connecticut Small Claims Courts Work?
Connecticut Small Claims Courts operate with more straightforward rules than the regular Connecticut Courts. Small Claims Courts adopt a quicker way of resolving disputes, which is inexpensive and timely. The Small Claims Court does not conduct a jury trial. When a litigant files a small claims case, the Chief Court Administrator transfers the matter to a Court Magistrate. Litigants may go pro se, that is, self-representation in the Small Claims Courts. It means the litigants do not necessarily need to hire an attorney because the rules are easy to understand.
Per Section 24-6 Practice Book, the court also allows certain business members to represent the business if one of the litigants is a business. At the Small Claims Court, the person filing the action is a plaintiff, while the person being sued is the defendant. The plaintiff and the defendant may be individuals or businesses. Connecticut Small Claims Court has jurisdiction to handle claims against a defendant who does not reside in the state as long as such defendant owns a property in the State of Connecticut. A statement to prove such must be in the claim of the plaintiff.
Sometimes, the Small Claims Court may transfer a small claims action to a regular docket of the Superior Court or Housing Court. These may happen if:
- One of the parties file a counterclaim and file a motion to transfer the case on or before the answer date.
- The court grants a motion to open judgment claiming a lack of service of actual notice of the case. In this case, the party must file the motion to transfer and all other documents within 15 days after receiving the notice granting the motion.
While awaiting the trial date, the plaintiff may collect and organize all necessary documents that deal with the claim. A plaintiff subpoenaing a witness needs to fill the Subpoena form (JD-CL-43). Also, if there is a need for an interpreter, contact the Clerk of Court office. After hearing the matter, the Small Claims Court has 45 days to rule on a case.
Where the court judgment favors the plaintiff after hearing, the court's decision is binding on the defendant. The defendant has to pay the judgment sum to the plaintiff according to the judgment of the Small Claims Court. The judgment of the court is valid for ten years. The parties to the action may not appeal the Small Claims Court's decision to a higher court because the judgment is final.
How to Take Someone To Small Claims Court in Connecticut
To bring an action to the Small Claims Courts, the plaintiff needs to file with the court within their local address. To do this, the plaintiff needs to complete the Small Claims Writ and Notice Of Suit (Form JD-CV-40) form. All information in the form must be legible enough for the Clerk of Court to read. The form must contain the exact and correct legal names of the defendant. Avoid using initials, nicknames, or abbreviations when filing the defendant's name. Making a mistake with the defendant's name may lead to the plaintiff not getting the judgment sum. Ensure to list any additional defendants on the Continuation of Parties form JD-CV-67.
When filing an action against a business, the plaintiff must carry out due diligence to know if the business is a company, a corporation, a limited liability company (LLC), or a partnership. To find out about this information, the plaintiff may contact the Secretary of the State at (860) 509-6002 or visit at:
Commercial Recording Corporation Information,
30 Trinity Street,
Hartford, CT 06106
After completing the form, the plaintiff must notarize the Small Claims Writ and Notice Of Suit before serving it on the defendant. When signing the claim form, the plaintiff must swear to an oath, and the person taking the oath must also sign. Note that the plaintiff may take an oath at the Office of the Clerk of Court, notary public, or a Commissioner of the Superior Court (attorney).
The plaintiff may serve or have a proper officer serve the defendant(s) with a copy of the completed original Small Claims Writ and Notice Of Suit. The plaintiff has to attach the Instructions to Defendant (form JD-CV-121) and all other relevant documents. The Connecticut General Statutes require the plaintiff to serve the defendant with the completed form and other documents using one of the methods below:
- Priority mail with delivery confirmation.
- Certified mail, return receipt requested.
- A Nationally recognized courier service providing delivery confirmation.
- A proper officer, for example, a marshal. Plaintiffs use this method if the defendant is an out-of-state business. It is important to note that the service requirements are in Chapter 697, Title 38a of the Connecticut General Statutes when the defendant is an out-of-state insurance company. For more information, consult the Connecticut Insurance Department.
Upon successful service on the defendant(s), the plaintiff may complete the Statement of Service Small Claim form (JD-CV-123). Then file the Original Claims Writ, Statement of Service and Delivery, and other documents at the relevant Small Claims Court. All these documents may be sent via mail or submitted in person. In all cases except for landlord-tenant matters, the plaintiff may file at the Small Claims Court location where they live, where the defendant lives, or where the injury took place. If the claim is a landlord-tenant matter, the trial takes place at the location of the house or apartment. The plaintiff must pay $95 for the entry filing fee for each defendant in the case. Note that where the court judgment favors the plaintiff at the hearing, the court adds the entry fee to the judgment sum.
When the Clerk of the relevant Small Claims Court receives the Small Claims Writ and Notice Of Suit (form JD-CV-40), the Clerk sets an answer date. The Clerk of Court sends the answer date and the case number to the parties or representative(if any). The answer date is not for the parties to come to the court; it is for the defendant to send a copy of the answer to the plaintiff. If the defendant denies the claim of the plaintiff in the answer sent, the Clerk of Court sets a trial date. After the court sets a hearing date, if the plaintiff cannot make it to the date scheduled must communicate this.
The plaintiff needs to call the defendants first to give reasons for wanting a new trial date. If the defendant agrees, the plaintiff needs to mail or fax the Motion for Continuance (form JD-CV-21) to the court where the case is pending. The motion contains the reasons for seeking another date. The defendant also receives the motion. If this motion is before the trial date, the Clerk of Court determines it; if made on the trial date, the magistrate determines it. If the Small Claims Court grants the request, the Clerk picks a new date for trial and notifies all parties in the case.
On the trial date, parties tell the court about their case and cross-examine the other party's witnesses. The court may deliver its decision on the trial date; otherwise, it has 45 days to rule on a case. When the court makes a decision, the parties receive a copy of the decision via mail. The judgment entered is final and binding and may not be appealed by either party to a higher court. The plaintiff has to file a Withdrawal Form (JD-CV-70) with the Clerk of Court, where the defendant pays the money the plaintiff is claiming before the judgment. The plaintiff has to fill out the certification at the bottom of the form and send a copy to the defendant.
How Much Can You Sue For in Connecticut Small Claims Court?
In the Small Claims Courts, both individuals and companies may bring an action to recover money damages not more than $5000. Any claim above the jurisdictional limit is deemed waived by the party filing the small claims action.
How to Defend Yourself in Connecticut Small Claims Court
Upon receipt of the Notice of Suit, the defendant has to file an Answer form in response to the plaintiff's claim. The court usually sends the Answer form after the plaintiff files the proof of service at the court. Complete the answer form in writing and return it to the court and the plaintiff on or before the answer date. Sometimes, the defendant may agree to the claim and offer to pay the plaintiff a certain amount of money. If the plaintiff accepts, the plaintiff sends it to the magistrates, who review it and then enter a valid judgment.
A defendant who requires a payment plan sends the request for review to the judicial authority. The judicial officer may sometimes require a hearing to determine the payment plan request. However, if the plaintiff refuses the defendant's request, a trial date is set. Another option is for the defendant to file a counterclaim if the plaintiff owes money. To file a counterclaim, the defendant has to pay the filing fee of $95 to the Clerk's office. If the defendant's claim is more than $5000, the Small Claims Courts usually transfer the case to the regular docket of the Superior Court.
For a good defense in a small claim trial, the defendant must gather every relevant evidence and facts that support their argument. They could be receipts, contract papers, photographs, etc. Witnesses are also relevant and they give first-hand testimony of the defendants assertions. When an important witness refuses to testify in court, the plaintiff may pray the court to subpoena the witness.
How Long Do You Have to Take Someone to Small Claims Court in Connecticut?
The Connecticut Court has a Statute of Limitation for different types of cases inclusive of actions that may come before the Small Claims Courts. The statutes of limitation are dependent on the kind of action the plaintiff is filing. The plaintiff must bring:
- An action founded upon a tort that leading to the plaintiff's injury or property within three years from the date of the act.
- An action for damages caused by a change of highway grade that leads to a property degrading within six years.
- Action on oral contract within three years
- An action for injury to a person or property caused by negligence, misconduct, or malpractice within two years.
- An action for an account or on simple or implied contracts within six years.
What Happens if You Don't Show up for Connecticut Small Claims Court?
Usually, when the defendant fails to file an answer to a plaintiff's claim, the court determines whether the defendant does not want to dispute the amount the plaintiff is claiming. If the plaintiff's claim is against an individual, the plaintiff must, under oath, say the individual is not in the military or naval service and must state the source of such facts. The plaintiff needs to fill and complete the Affidavit Concerning Military Service (form JD-FM-178).
A plaintiff may find out if the defendant is in the military or naval service from the Defense Manpower Data Center. The plaintiff may attach the information from this website to the affidavit of oath. However, if the plaintiff cannot find out, another individual who knows the defendant may complete a deposition under oath. Upon these submissions, the court reaches a decision. If it is proven that the defendant is not in military service and still fails to answer the plaintiff’s claim, the court enters a default judgment against the defendant. A default judgment means that the defendant is guilty of the plaintiff’s claims and must pay the claim amount.
What Are Connecticut Small Claims Court Records?
Connecticut Small Claims Court records are public records per the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. As a public record, the general public may view information like party names, the amount of money, and disposition information. Also, the judgment against the defendant always reflects on the credit report per Section 36a-695 of the Connecticut General Statutes.
Where Can I Find Connecticut Small Claims Court Records?
Connecticut court records are generally maintained and disseminated by the various court clerks of the courts in the state’s respective judicial district. Case information for small claims matters filed with Centralized Small Claims before September 1, 2017, are available online via the Centralized Small Claims Case Look-up. Case information filed after September 1, 2017, are available via Superior Court Small Claims Case Look-up. The requester may search using the party name or docket number.