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Small-claims courts have limited jurisdiction to hear civil cases between private
litigant - A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the Civil law (common law), civil court of law. The archaic term "suit in law" is found in only a small number of laws still in effect today. The term "lawsuit" is used in re ...
s. Courts authorized to try small claims may also have other judicial functions, and go by different names in different jurisdictions. For example, it may be known as a county or
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a ''Roman magistrate, magistratus'' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and poss ...
's court. These courts can be found in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of , Australia is the largest country by ...
,
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, ...
,
Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world ...
,
England and Wales England and Wales () is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is Engli ...
,
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
,
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
,
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and over 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands. It is the ...
,
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
,
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
,
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
,
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...
,
Nigeria Nigeria ( ), , ig, Naìjíríyà, yo, Nàìjíríà, pcm, Naijá , ff, Naajeeriya, kcg, Naijeriya officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa. It is situated between the Sahel to the north and the Gulf of G ...
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
.


Purpose and operation

The jurisdiction of small-claims courts typically encompasses private disputes that do not involve large amounts of money. The routine collection of small
debt Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to another party, the creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, which differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The de ...
s forms a large portion of the cases brought to small-claims courts, as well as
eviction Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord. In some jurisdictions it may also involve the removal of persons from premises that were foreclosed by a mortgagee (often, the prior owners who defaulted on a mort ...
s and other disputes between
landlord A landlord is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, land, or real estate which is Renting, rented or leased to an individual or business, who is called a Leasehold estate, tenant (also a ''lessee'' or ''renter''). When a juristic person ...
s and
tenants A leasehold estate is an ownership of a temporary right to hold land or property in which a Lease, lessee or a tenant holds rights of real property by some form of title (property), title from a lessor or landlord. Although a tenant does hold rig ...
, unless the jurisdiction is already covered by a tenancy board. A small-claims court generally has a maximum
monetary Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts, such as taxes, in a particular country or socio-economic context. The primary functions which distinguish money are as ...
limit to the amount of
judgments Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as '' adjudication'', which means the evaluation of evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported propo ...
it can award, often in the thousands of dollars/pounds. By suing in a small-claims court, the
plaintiff A plaintiff (pi (letter), Π in List of legal abbreviations, legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the co ...
typically waives any right to claim more than the court can award. The plaintiff may or may not be allowed to reduce a claim to fit the requirements of this venue. 'Court shopping'—where a plaintiff reduces the damage claim amount to have a trial in a court that otherwise does not have jurisdiction—is strictly forbidden in some states. For example, if a plaintiff asserts damages of $30,000 in hopes of winning an award of $25,000 in small-claims court, the court dismisses the case because the court does not have jurisdiction to hear cases in which asserted damages exceed the court's maximum amount. Thus, even if the plaintiff is willing to accept less than the full amount, the case cannot be brought to small-claims court. To bring the case to small-claims court, the plaintiff must prove that actual damages are within the court's jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, a party who loses in a small-claims court is entitled to a trial '' de novo'' in a court of more general jurisdiction and with more formal procedures. The rules of
civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law) ...
, and sometimes of
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evid ...
, are typically altered and simplified to make the procedures economical. A usual guiding principle in these courts is that individuals ought to be able to conduct their own cases and represent themselves without a
lawyer A lawyer is a person who practices law. The role of a lawyer varies greatly across different legal jurisdictions. A lawyer can be classified as an advocate, attorney, barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction ( ...
. Rules are relaxed but still apply to some degree. In some jurisdictions,
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...
s must still be represented by a lawyer in small-claims court. Expensive court procedures such as interrogatories and depositions are usually not allowed in small-claims court, and practically all matters filed in small-claims court are set for
trial In law, a trial is a coming together of Party (law), parties to a :wikt:dispute, dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence (law), evidence) in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate claims or d ...
. Under some court rules, should the defendant not show up at trial and not have requested a postponement, a default judgment may be entered in favour of the plaintiff.
Trial by jury A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a legal proceeding in which a jury makes a decision or findings of fact. It is distinguished from a bench trial in which a judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceed ...
is seldom or never conducted in small-claims courts; it is typically excluded by the
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislature, legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, State (polity), state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare Public p ...
establishing the court. Similarly, equitable remedies such as
injunction An injunction is a legal remedy, legal and equitable remedy in the form of a special court order that compels a party (law), party to do or refrain from specific acts. ("The United States courts of appeals, court of appeals ... has exclusive ju ...
s, including protective orders, are seldom available from small-claims courts. Separate
family court Family courts were originally created to be a Court of Equity convened to decide matters and make orders in relation to family law, including child custody, custody of children, and could disregard certain legal requirements as long as the petiti ...
s may exist to hear simple cases in
family law Family law (also called matrimonial law or the law of domestic relations) is an area of the law that deals with family matters and domestic relations. Overview Subjects that commonly fall under a nation's body of family law include: * Marriage, ...
. For reasons having more to do with history than with the sort of case typically heard by a small-claims court, most US states do not allow domestic relations disputes in small-claims court. Winning in small-claims court does not automatically ensure payment in recompense of a plaintiff's damages. This may be relatively easy, in the case of a dispute against an insured party, or extremely difficult, in the case of an uncooperative, transient, or indigent defendant. The judgment may be collected through
wage garnishment Garnishment is a legal process for collecting a monetary Judgment (law), judgment on behalf of a plaintiff from a defendant. Garnishment allows the plaintiff (the "garnishor") to take the money or property of the debtor from the person or institut ...
and liens. Most courts encourage parties with disputes to seek alternative dispute resolution, if possible, before filing
suit A suit, lounge suit, or business suit is a set of clothes comprising a suit jacket and trousers of identical textiles worn with a collared dress shirt, necktie, and dress shoes. A skirt suit is similar, but with a matching skirt instead of tr ...
. For example, the Superior Court of California, Santa Clara provides guidelines for resolving disputes out of court. Both parties can agree on
arbitration Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that resolves disputes outside the judiciary courts. The dispute will be decided by one or more persons (the 'arbitrators', 'arbiters' or 'arbitral tribunal'), which renders the ' ...
by a third party to settle their dispute outside of
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of justice in Civil law (common law), civil, C ...
, though while small-claims court judgments can still be
appeal In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying and ...
ed, arbitration awards cannot.


History

The Mayor's and City of London Court is the successor to the several medieval courts in the
City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and constitutes, alongside Canary Wharf, the primary central bu ...
, one being the Court of Conscience for recovery of small debts. This was a type of equity court. A similar Court of Conscience was established by
charter A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified. It is implicit that the granter retains superiority (or sovereignty), and that the rec ...
in some
ancient borough The ancient boroughs were a historic unit of lower-tier local government in England and Wales. The ancient boroughs covered only important towns and were established by charters granted at different times by the Monarchy of the United Kingdom, ...
s in
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
; this was emulated in others, without legal sanction until regularised by the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840.


By region


Australia

Small claims are handled differently by each state and territory, with most relying on tribunals while others have a minor claims division of their respective magistrates court: * Australian Capital Territory: ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction over civil disputes involving amounts up to $25,000 * New South Wales: The Small Claims Division of the Local Court of New South Wales hears civil claims up to $20,000, while the General Division hears civil disputes between $20,000 and $100,000 in value. * Northern Territory: Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction over small claims, which involve amounts up to $25,000 * Queensland: Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal deals with minor civil disputes, which involve amounts up to $25,000 * South Australia: Magistrates Court of South Australia hears a minor claim, which is up to $25,000 in value * Victoria: Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal * Western Australia: Magistrates Court of Western Australia hears a minor case, which involves a claim up to $10,000


Belgium

In
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the ...
, the justices of the peace ( nl, vredegerecht, french: justice de paix, german: friedensgericht) function as the small claims courts in the country's judicial system; they stand at the bottom of the Belgian judicial hierarchy and only handle civil cases. There is a justice of the peace in each judicial canton of Belgium, of which there are 187 in total as of 2017. The justices of the peace have
original jurisdiction In common law (legal system), common law legal systems original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a higher court has the power to review a lower court's decision. ...
over cases in which the disputed amount does not exceed 5,000 euro (as of September 2018), except for the matters over which another court or tribunal has
exclusive jurisdiction Exclusive jurisdiction exists in civil procedure if one court has the power to adjudicate a Legal case, case to the exclusion of all other courts. The opposite situation is concurrent jurisdiction (or non-exclusive jurisdiction) in which more th ...
. In addition, the justices of the peace have original jurisdiction over a number of matters irrespective of the disputed amount, such as cases involving the
renting Renting, also known as hiring or letting, is an agreement where a payment is made for the temporary use of a good, service or property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to ...
or leasing of
real estate Real estate is property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this (also) an item of real property, (more general ...
,
eviction Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord. In some jurisdictions it may also involve the removal of persons from premises that were foreclosed by a mortgagee (often, the prior owners who defaulted on a mort ...
s,
easement An easement is a nonpossessory right to use and/or enter onto the real property of another without possessing it. It is "best typified in the right of way which one landowner, A, may enjoy over the land of another, B". An easement is a propert ...
, land consolidation,
consumer credit Credit (from Latin verb ''credit'', meaning "one believes") is the Trust (social sciences), trust which allows one Party (law), party to provide money or resources to another party wherein the second party does not reimburse the first party im ...
or unpaid
utility bill An invoice, bill or tab is a commerce, commercial document issued by a sales, seller to a buyer relating to a sale transaction and indicating the product (business), products, quantities, and agreed-upon prices for products or Service (economic ...
s. The justices of the peace also have original jurisdiction in certain aspects of
family law Family law (also called matrimonial law or the law of domestic relations) is an area of the law that deals with family matters and domestic relations. Overview Subjects that commonly fall under a nation's body of family law include: * Marriage, ...
, most notably
legal guardian A legal guardian is a person who has been appointed by a court or otherwise has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to make decisions relevant to the personal and property interests of another person who is deemed incompetent, calle ...
ships for incapacitated seniors, and the
involuntary commitment Involuntary commitment, civil commitment, or involuntary hospitalization/hospitalisation is a legal process through which an individual who is deemed by a qualified agent to have symptoms of severe mental disorder is detained in a psychiatric hos ...
of the mentally ill to psychiatric facilities. The judgments made by the justices of the peace can, with some exceptions, be appealed to the tribunals of first instance.


Brazil

Small claim courts in Brazil were established by Law No. 9,099/1995 and Article One of such law states that they shall be organized by both Federal Judiciary and State Judiciary. Therefore, there are Federal Small Claim Courts (single noun ''Juizado Especial Federal''), as well as Small Claim Courts that are part of a state's judiciary structure. The Small Claim Courts that belong to a State's Judiciary are subdivided into two types of courts: the Special Civil Court (''Juizado Especial Cívil'', shortened as JEC) and the Special Criminal Court (''Juizado Especial Criminal'', shortened as Jecrim). Under Article Three of Law No. 9,099/1995, Civil Claims involving an amount up to 40 (forty) monthly minimal wages or R$24,880.00 (October 2012), which correspond to roughly US$12,440.00, may be filed before a Special Civil Court, as well as small claims involving landlords and some claims set by Article 275, II, of the Code of Civil Procedure. Special Criminal Courts, on the other hand, may process claims involving small criminal offences, which, under Article 60 of Law No. 9,099/1995 are those either set by the Contraventions Law (Decree No. 3,688/1941) or those where the penalty does not surpass 02 (two years). As per Article 54, there are no court fees for the Small Claim Courts. However, if an appeal is filed, court fees shall be applied.


Canada

All provinces have procedures for small claims in Canada. In general, there are two different models. In most provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick, small-claims courts operate independently of the superior courts. In other jurisdictions, the small-claims court is a branch or division of the superior court. In Ontario, the Small-Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice, and in Manitoba, the Small-Claims Court is under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Queen's Bench. Small-claims cases are heard by judges of the Provincial Court in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, by judges or deputy judges of the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario, and by Hearing Officers in Manitoba. Small-claims courts are meant to provide an easier and less expensive path to resolve disputes than the higher courts. Small-claims court procedure is regulated both by provincial legislation and rules in most provinces. The small-claims procedure is simplified with no strict pleadings requirements and no formal discovery process, and parties' costs may be limited. Monetary limits for small-claims courts in Canada vary by province: In general, disputes involving title to land,
slander Defamation is the act of communicating to a third party false statements about a person, place or thing that results in damage to its reputation. It can be spoken (slander) or written (libel). It constitutes a tort or a crime. The legal defini ...
,
libel Defamation is the act of communicating to a third party false statements about a person, place or thing that results in damage to its reputation. It can be spoken (slander) or written (libel). It constitutes a tort or a crime. The legal defini ...
,
bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a legal process through which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors may seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debt ...
,
false imprisonment False imprisonment or unlawful imprisonment occurs when a person intentionally restricts another person’s movement within any area without Right, legal authority, justification, or consent, the restrained person's permission. Actual physical ...
, or malicious prosecution must be handled in a superior court and cannot be determined in small-claims courts.


European Union

A European Small Claims Procedure for cross-border claims under the
Brussels regime The Brussels Regime is a set of rules regulating which courts have jurisdiction in legal disputes of a civil or commercial nature between individuals resident in different member states of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade As ...
as an alternative to national procedures was established on 1 January 2009, processing claims with values up to 2,000
EUR The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 out of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union (EU). This group of states is known as the eurozone o ...
, increased to 5,000€ on 14 July 2017 and current


Hong Kong

The Small Claims Tribunal ( Chinese: 小額錢債審裁處) was established to provide a procedure for the speedy and inexpensive resolution of small claims. Situated at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building, the Small Claims Tribunal deals with monetary claims not exceeding HK$75,000. It has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with such claims. The Small Claims Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to deal with labour disputes, possession of land, alimony maintenance, libel/defamation claims and claims made by money lenders. As the Small Claims Tribunal does not have the power to grant
injunctive relief An injunction is a legal remedy, legal and equitable remedy in the form of a special court order that compels a party (law), party to do or refrain from specific acts. ("The United States courts of appeals, court of appeals ... has exclusive ju ...
, if a claimant seeks such relief, the case will be transferred to the District Court. The
Chief Magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two different meanings of magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refe ...
(currently Victor So Wai-tak) is the Court Leader of the Small Claims Tribunal and is responsible for the administration of the Tribunal. Cases in the Small Claims Tribunal are heard by Adjudicators ( Chinese: 審裁官) appointed by the
Chief Executive A chief executive officer (CEO), also known as a central executive officer (CEO), chief administrator officer (CAO) or just chief executive (CE), is one of a number of Corporate Executive, corporate executives charged with the management of an or ...
on the recommendation of the independent Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission (JORC). Cases may also be heard by Deputy Adjudicators ( Chinese: 暫委審裁官) appointed on a temporary basis by the Chief Justice. A person who has practised for at least 5 years as a
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, rese ...
,
advocate An advocate is a professional in the field of law. List of country legal systems, Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English law–based jurisdictions could be a barri ...
,
solicitor A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have Admission to practice law, legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be des ...
or judicial officer in Hong Kong or another
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omnipres ...
jurisdiction is eligible to be appointed as an Adjudicator or Deputy Adjudicator. In practice, a number of Permanent Magistrates are assigned to sit as Adjudicators in the Small Claims Tribunal. The fee to file a claim in the Small Claims Tribunal varies between HK$20 and HK$120 depending on the amount claimed. When a claim is filed at the Tribunal Registry, the claimant will be given Form 3 which states the date of the call-over hearing (which must take place no later than 60 days after the claim is filed). At the call-over hearing, the Tribunal Officer will interview both parties, identify the issues in dispute and explore if a settlement can be reached. If the dispute cannot be settled, the Tribunal Officer will give directions for the filing of further documents (defence, counterclaim, reply, witness statements, other supporting documents etc) and will adjourn the case until another date for a mention hearing. At the mention hearing, the Adjudicator will check if the parties have complied with the previous directions and may also give further directions in preparation for trial. The Adjudicator may also actively explore with parties if they are willing to settle. If a settlement cannot be reached and the case is ready for trial, the Adjudicator will fix a trial date. A party may apply to the Tribunal for adjournment of a hearing date. However, as the aim of the Small Claims Tribunal is to handle and dispose of disputes within a reasonable time, the Tribunal will generally only allow an application for adjournment if it is supported by a good reason and if it is a short adjournment. The Tribunal is expected to manage cases actively. Hearings in the Small Claims Tribunal are conducted in an informal manner. Parties act in person and are not permitted to be legally represented. The rationale is that small claims should be resolved without incurring substantial expenses in retaining legal services and also that an unrepresented litigant should not fear the imbalance of power caused by a lawyer representing the other side. This ensures that there is a level playing field for all parties. However, a party is permitted to consult a lawyer for advice, including a lawyer who is present in the courtroom during the hearing as an observer, as long as the lawyer does not effectively conduct the case by giving directions to the party on steps to take during the hearing and questions to ask the witnesses. If a party is a corporation and one of its employees is a lawyer, that employee is allowed to represent the corporation in the proceedings in the Small Claims Tribunal. A party may also apply to the Small Claims Tribunal for leave for another person (who is not a lawyer) to act as their representative in conducting the case. The claimant bears the burden of proof and has the primary responsibility to prepare and produce evidence in support of their case. However, the Adjudicator is under a statutory obligation to inquire into any matter considered relevant to a claim, whether or not it has been raised by a party. The Adjudicator may therefore invite the parties to comment on matters or direct them to produce evidence or documents relating to matters considered to be important. As the Adjudicator has an 'active inquisitorial role', the adjudicator should direct the parties to produce specific documents/evidence if such documents/evidence would have a bearing on the legal analysis of the dispute. The Adjudicator is not under a duty to summon witnesses to fill in the gaps in the evidence/case put forward by a party, but if a witness who may be important has not been called by a party and the Adjudicator has not explained to the parties the potential significance of that witness, the Adjudicator should not solely rely on the failure to call that witness to disbelieve a party's case. The Adjudicator may put questions to the parties and witnesses, and invite the parties to make submissions. However, the duty to inquire does not mean that the Adjudicator should take over the role of an adviser or advocate for a party, as the Adjudicator must remain neutral and impartial. Rules of evidence do not apply in the Small Claims Tribunal, which may receive any evidence that it considers to be relevant. The Small Claims Tribunal will decide how to receive evidence based on considerations of proportionality, costs and common sense. A party may request
discovery Discovery may refer to: * Discovery (observation), observing or finding something unknown * Discovery (fiction), a character's learning something unknown * Discovery (law), a process in courts of law relating to evidence Discovery, The Discovery ...
of documents from the other party if such documents exist, are/were in that party's possession, are relevant to the dispute and are necessary to obtain to deal fairly with the dispute between the parties. The Small Claims Tribunal can receive
hearsay Hearsay evidence (law), evidence, in a legal forum, is testimony from an under-oath witness who is reciting an out-of-court statement, the content of which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most courts, hearsay evide ...
evidence, but it should consider why the witness concerned is not called to give oral evidence and whether the hearsay evidence is credible. The Small Claims Tribunal has a discretion to award to the successful party any reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by and any loss of salary or wages suffered in attending the hearings. The costs order is not meant to be punitive. The Adjudicator will give the decision orally or in writing at the end of the trial or as soon as possible thereafter. If the decision is delivered orally, the Adjudicator is required to reduce it to writing within 14 days. When reducing the oral decision in writing, the Adjudicator may expand on the oral decision by giving fuller written reasons for judgment as long as they are consistent with the original determination and factual findings. The Adjudicator is under a duty to analyse the material points in the evidence of the case and to give reasons as to why a particular conclusion or decision has been reached. The Adjudicator should explain their belief or disbelief in the evidence given by a witness. The Adjudicator should not give further written reasons to perfect or improve on the written reasons for decision which have already been given, in particular after one party has made an application to the Court of First Instance of the High Court for leave to appeal. After the Adjudicator has delivered the decision/order, a party may request within 7 days by filing Form 8C and paying a fee of HK$61 that the adjudicator review the decision. When conducting the review of the decision/order, the Adjudicator may re-open and re-hear the claim wholly or in part, may call or hear fresh evidence, and may accordingly confirm, vary or reverse the decision/order. Parties wishing to adduce new evidence at the review stage are required to give cogent reasons explaining why such evidence had not been adduced at trial and show that such evidence is material/relevant to the dispute. The Adjudicator is required to give adequate reasons for the review decision. Regardless of whether the Adjudicator has conducted a review of the decision/order, a party may appeal to the Court of First Instance of the High Court against a decision/order of the Small Claims Tribunal. However, it is necessary first to apply for leave to appeal from the Court of First Instance by filing Form 9 and paying a fee of HK$61 within 7 working days of the Small Claim Tribunal's decision/order by showing that it involves a point of law that is arguable or exceeded the Tribunal's jurisdiction. When applying for leave to appeal, a party may be legally represented in the Court of First Instance. The leave to appeal application will be heard before a High Court Judge at an '' ex parte'' oral hearing, which is attended only by the party applying for leave to appeal and not the other party/parties. Instead of an oral hearing, regardless of whether the applicant is legally represented or acting in person, the High Court Judge may direct that the '' ex parte'' application for leave to appeal be determined by way of paper disposal (in which case, the applicant files written submissions and the Judge hands down a decision at a later date). If the Court of First Instance refuses to grant leave to appeal, its decision is final and not susceptible to further appeal. The '' ex parte'' leave to appeal procedure means that the successful party in the Small Claims Tribunal only has to spend time and incur costs in resisting an appeal if the other party has been able to persuade the High Court Judge that he/she has an arguable ground of appeal. However, in some cases, the High Court Judge may direct that the leave to appeal hearing take place '' inter partes'' (in the presence of all the parties, not just the applicant). If leave to appeal is granted, the appellant should file a Notice of Originating Motion and pay a fee of HK$1,045. All the parties (who may be legally represented) will then attend the appeal hearing before a High Court Judge. The Court of First Instance is not bound to allow the appeal merely because there was a misdirection or improper admission or rejection of evidence by the Small Claims Tribunal, unless the Court is of the view that substantial wrong or miscarriage was thereby occasioned. If the appeal is allowed, and if the appellant is legally represented while the respondent acts in person as he/she cannot afford legal representation, the Court has a discretion not to order that the unsuccessful respondent pay the costs incurred by the successful appellant in bringing the appeal if it would cause 'undue hardship' to the unsuccessful respondent and if the respondent had not put forward a claim or a defence in bad faith and had not misbehaved in conducting the proceedings in the Small Claims Tribunal. In principle, if the appeal is allowed, the Court of First Instance will remit the case back to the Small Claims Tribunal for a re-trial if it is necessary to make new/further factual findings, even if the amount claimed is small. However, the Court of First Instance may decline to order a re-trial even if it considers that the Small Claims Tribunal made an error of law if it would be disproportionate bearing in mind the amount claimed.


Ireland

The "small claims court" is an informal name for the District Court when operating under its Small Claims Procedure court rules. The Courts of Conscience of boroughs in the Republic of Ireland were superseded under the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 by the District Court, which operates throughout the state. Small claims cases were processed in the same manner as other
summary judgment In law, a summary judgment (also judgment as a matter of law or summary disposition) is a judgment entered by a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate le ...
s of the District Court until 1991, when a separate "small claims procedure" was first specified. The current District Court small claims procedure rules date from 2007, with amendments down to 2009. The European Small Claims Procedure is used where one party is in another EU member state.


Kenya

The Kenyan Small Claims Court was established in 2016 (formally launched on 26 April 2021 at Milimani Law Courts) under section 4 of the Small Claim Act No.2 of 2016. This court is a subordinate court as per Article 169(1) (d) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and its geographical jurisdiction covers sub-counties or any other units of decentralization under the Constitution. Each Small Claims Court is presided over by an adjudicator appointed by the Judicial Service Commission. The Chief Justice can also designate any qualified person to act in as an adjudicator (section 6(1) and (2). To qualify under section 8 for appointment to be an adjudicator, a person must: a) be an advocate of the High Court of Kenya with three years of legal experience, or b) be trained as a paralegal at the Kenya School of Law. The court deals with civil cases provided for under section 12 which arise from: a) a contract for sale and supply of goods or services; (b) a contract relating to money held and received; (c) liability in tort in respect of loss or damage caused to any property or for the delivery or recovery of movable property; (d) compensation for personal injuries; and (e) set-off and counterclaim under any contract. Though the court’s pecuniary jurisdiction is limited to KES 1,000,000 (approximately 10,000 USD), Section 12(4) gives the Chief Justice the power to review that limit to any amount he thinks fit via a Gazette notice.


Nigeria

Small Claims court in Nigeria is similar to the ones in the United States and England. They are specially designated courts that hear and determine debt recovery cases of a small and liquidated debt. The small claims courts were introduced in Lagos Nigeria in April 2018 by the former Chief Judge of Lagos State Justice Opeyemi Oke . It is not clear if it was a world bank initiative or as a Lagos State Judiciary reform as the time of establishing the courts coincided with the PEBEC and world bank motive to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria through seamless debt recovery court procedure. At the establishment ceremony, 15 magistrates courts across the five magisterial districts of Lagos were designated as small claims court. The five magisterial districts include Lagos Island, Ikeja, Yaba, Badagry and Ikorodu. The Kano State Judiciary followed in Lagos' steps and established it
Small Claims Court
on 24 January 2019 having similar jurisdiction as the Lagos State Small Claims Court. Five Courts were designated as Small Claims Courts and are located in Gwammaja, Gyadi-Gyadi, Nomansland and Dawakin Tofa. The small claims courts are presided over by magistrates who hear and determine cases on debt claims not exceeding five million Naira. It encompasses the routine collection of small debts, evictions and other disputes between landlords and tenants, as well as breach of contracts and simple torts. To institute a small claims matter, either the defendant or the claimant must be residing or doing business within the judicial division of the court.


Singapore

Similar to the UK, small-claims can be handled in Singapore through State Courts of Singapore.


United Kingdom

The rules and procedures differ for the different countries of the United Kingdom. While Britain was a member of the European Union, the European Small Claims Procedure for cross-border claims also applied.


England and Wales

England and Wales England and Wales () is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is Engli ...
does not have a separate small claims court. They are usually dealt with in the
County Court A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more county, counties, which are administrative divisions (subnational entities) within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of ''county courts'' held by t ...
after being allocated to the small claims track of the County Court system. Small claims take place under a modified set of rules. Low-value cases, including most non-personal-injury cases up to £10,000, are usually assigned to the small claims track, producing a small claims action in the County Court. These cases are heard by district judges under an informal procedure. An important difference between small claims and other civil claims is that the parties are usually unable to recover their legal costs, regardless of who wins or loses. For this reason, most individuals and businesses involved in small claims deal with them without legal representation. The winning party will, however, generally be able to recover the following costs, fee and expenses from the losing party: * fixed costs on commencement; * court fees; * expenses reasonably incurred by the winner and his/her witnesses in travelling to/from a hearing or in staying away from home for the purposes of attending a hearing; * loss of earnings or loss of leave for the winner and his/her witnesses due to attending a hearing or staying away from home for the purpose of attending a hearing (capped at £95 per day for each person); * expert fees (capped at £750 for each expert) The separate small claims procedure was first introduced for claims up to £75 in 1973. This flowed from the statutory power of judges to order arbitration. The limit was raised to £1,000 in 1991, £3,000 in 1996, £5,000 in 1999 and £10,000 in 2013. The limit is only a guideline. The court may allocate a case to the small claim track where the claim is over the guideline if it is considered that the case is simple enough that it is an appropriate way of disposing of the matter. A Money Claim Online service is available for larger, but still simple, claims.


Northern Ireland

The small claims process allows certain types of claims not exceeding £3,000 to be decided informally by the County Court.


Scotland

In Scotland small claims are handled by a process called simple procedure, subject to a limit of £5,000.


United States

The movement to establish small-claims courts typically began in the early 1960s, when
justice of the peace A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or ''puisne'' court, elected or appointed by means of a commission (letters patent) to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the same ...
courts were increasingly seen as obsolete, and officials felt it desirable to have such a court to allow people to represent themselves without legal counsel. In
New York State New York, officially the State of New York, is a U.S. state, state in the Northeastern United States. It is often called New York State to distinguish it from its largest city, New York City. With a total area of , New York is the List of U.S. ...
, small claims courts were established in response to the 1958 findings of Governor Thomas E. Dewey's Tweed Commission on the reorganization of the state judiciary. Since then, the movement towards small-claims courts has led to their establishment in most U.S. states. There is no equivalent to a small-claims court in the federal court. (Note that
Congress A congress is a formal meeting of the Representative democracy, representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political party, political parties, or other groups. The term originated in Late Middle Eng ...
has set the jurisdictional minimum for
diversity jurisdiction In the law of the United States, diversity jurisdiction is a form of subject-matter jurisdiction that gives United States federal courts, U.S. federal courts the power to hear lawsuits that do not involve a federal question jurisdiction, federal ...
cases at greater than $75,000). Magistrate judges are authorized to handle certain preliminary matters. Since the year 2010, the costs of filing fees have increased in almost every state court system. Filing fees typically range from US$15 to $150, depending on the claim amount. The alternative to small claims court include less expensive, faster online dispute resolution and settlement services, where potential litigants settle their disputes at a lower cost without requiring or involving any adjudicative process.


Classes

Some jurisdictions offer classes in small-claims court procedures. As such courts are open to the public, attendance at a few sessions may be useful to a person involved in a case, whether as plaintiff or defendant.


In popular culture

Several small-claims proceedings have appeared on television in court shows. However, the settings in these programs are not truly courts of law: even though they attempt to give off the appearance as such, they are merely forms of arbitration. Such shows include '' The People's Court'', ''
Judge Judy ''Judge Judy'' is an American Court show#Arbitration-based reality court show, arbitration-based reality court show presided over by former Manhattan Family Court Judge Judy Sheindlin, Judith Sheindlin. The show featured Sheindlin as she adjudi ...
'', '' Judge Joe Brown'', '' Judge Mathis'', etc., all of which feature retired judges as the arbitrator.See :Court shows


See also

* Allocation questionnaire – form used in English civil courts to decide whether to allocate a case to the small-claims track * Amount in controversy *
De minimis ''De minimis'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Small Claims Court Courts by type