What You Can Expect in Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court was established to help people handle cases of $5,000 or less, with or without an attorney. The law allows court clerks for this case type to assist in filling out all forms and pleadings necessary for the presentation of your claim or counterclaim. If you believe you need an attorney to protect your interests, you may hire one to represent you. In St. Louis County Small Claims cases must be filed in person at the Small Claims Office in the Courts Building unless you reside out of state.

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.

As noted, claims are limited to disputes up to $5,000 and may not be used for the return of goods or property.

The fee for filing in St. Louis County Small Claims Court is $20.50 plus service $36 per person served.

What Happens in Small Claims Court?

Whether you are the plaintiff asking for money in the petition or the defendant asking for money in a counterclaim, you must be prepared to prove you are owed the money for which you are asking. If you are a defendant without a counterclaim, you must try to convince the judge you are right and do not owe the money. The court docket is full, generally, judges do not allow for very much time to present your case.

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.

Below is a link to Small Claims Handbook for St. Louis County. Please note on page 10 it says, “try to settle your claim”. Mediation provides a fast alternative where both the plaintiff and defendant work to resolve the dispute. Even if you have filed a claim, you can still enter into mediation. 

Looking for more info on how small claims court works? We have linked to a helpful guide on the small claim courts process below: