What You Can Expect in Small Claims Court
In small claims courts, disputes can be addressed quickly and at a low cost. Because the process is more informal than traditional courts, attorneys are not typically necessary; instead, you will take on one of two roles – plaintiff or defendant – as both individuals have an opportunity to present their side of the story in a simplified arena.
Even non-U.S. citizens are eligible to file suit or defend themselves here. For those whose first language may not be English, interpreters are also available to make this accessible option available to those with business outside of the courtroom.
In general, claims are limited to disputes up to $5,000. However, natural persons (individuals) can claim up to $10,000.
Corporations, partnerships, unincorporated associations, governmental bodies, and other legal entities cannot claim more than $5,000.
Also, no claimant (natural person or legal entity) may file more than two small claims court actions for more than $2,500 anywhere in the state during any calendar year. For example, if you file an action for $4,000 in February 2022, and another action for $4,000 in March 2022, you may not file any more actions for more than $2,500 until January 1, 2023. You may file as many claims as you wish for $2,500 or less.
However, this limitation does not apply to a city, county, city and county, school district, county office of education, community college district, local district, or any other local public entity. They can bring more than two lawsuits over $2,500 in a calendar year.
The fee for filing in small claims court depends on the amount of the claim: $30 if the claim is for $1,500 or less, $50 if the claim is for more than $1,500 but less than or equal to $5,000, or $75 if the claim is for more than $5,000.
However, if a plaintiff has filed more than 12 small claims actions in Missouri within the previous 12 months, the filing fee for each subsequent case is $100.
If multiple filers prevail in court and are awarded court costs, they can only recover the same amount of court costs as non-multiple filers would receive. For example, if a multiple filer sued for $1,400 and won a judgment for $1,400, the court will grant that filer court costs (filing fee) of $30 and not the $100 that was paid to the clerks. The filing fee is paid by the plaintiff to the clerk of the small claims court.
Is Small Claims Court Your Best Option?
Before filing a case in small claims court, it’s important to decide whether going to small claims court is the best way to resolve your dispute. Many disputes can be resolved by using other dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.
If you are considering filing or have filed a small claims case or have been named as a plaintiff in St. Louis City, MO Small Claims Court or St. Louis County, MO Small Claims Court, we encourage you to contact Metropolitan Mediation Services to discuss your options. All consultations are free and confidential.