File a Small Claims Suit - Information from University of
Houston Law Center
Civil Information Packet
Texas Rules of Civil Procedure
Civil Judgment Payment
The following packets contain basic procedural information. The
information they contain is not offered as legal advice. The information is not
exhaustive. There may be other remedies and procedures not contained in these packets. You
should seek professional, licensed, legal counsel for advice.
Civil Fee Schedule
read this packet completely before filing your suit. Legal advice can only be obtained from an attorney.
Our Court Clerks are trained in procedure only, and cannot give any
legal advice. This is for the
clerk's protection as well as you own.
The following procedural instructions are the only information you
will receive from this office. You
may need to consult an attorney to protect your interests.
A suit should be filed in the County and Precinct where one
or more Defendants reside. (CPRC 15.082). However, there are
exceptions to this rule. For further information, see "Venue in Justice Court Suits."
Court Suit is a civil suit for money damages, possession of real
property, and enforcement of liens on personal property.
The amount of controversy must total $10,000 or less, interest
Claims Court Suit is a civil suit for money damages only (you may not
recover personal property). The
amount in controversy must total $10,000 or less, interest included.
For more information please read "Comparison
of Justice Court and Small Claims Court".
PARTIES TO THE SUIT:
OF THE PLAINTIFF:
This is the party that is instituting the suit.
Only the individual(s) or company(s) named at the top of the
Petition as Plaintiff(s) may collect a Judgment in favor of the Plaintiff.
You must sue the Defendant(s) in their proper legal capacity.
an Individual: You must sue the Defendant individually in the following two
the Defendant is personally responsible to you for damages he/she may have
caused you, and (2) the Defendant as an individual operating a
proprietorship or partnership is responsible to you for damages he/she may
As a Proprietorship or Partnership:
A proprietorship or partnership is a business that is not incorporated, but
has filed an "Assumed Name" with the County Clerk.
For example, "John Smith, d/b/a Smith Plumbing Company."
To determine whether a company or an individual has an assumed name
you must contact the County Clerk's office in the County where the company
As a Corporation:
If the business that has injured you is incorporated, you must contact the
State Comptroller's Office at (800) 252-1386, or the Secretary of State at
(512) 463-5555. Ask
for the name and address for service of the Registered Agent for
service of the corporation (the President or Vice-President will also work).
This is the person who has been authorized to receive information
regarding lawsuits filed against this corporation.
For example: when completing your complaint, the name of the
Defendant should read "ABC Corporation, by serving John Smith, Registered
Defendant must be served personally, usually by a Constable or Sheriff, in
the County where the Defendant is located.
Fees for service vary by County: Denton County charges $60.00 per
Defendant, Dallas County charges $70.00, Tarrant County is $40.00, and
Collin County is $55.00.
If the Defendant is to be served in a County other than Denton, you
will need to call the County Courthouse for the County in which the
Defendant will be served. Ask
who serves Civil Citations for Justice Court suits in that County (usually a
Constable or Sheriff) and call the appropriate office.
Find out the name, address, and service fees for civil citations.
fees + Service fees (see "Citation" above)
Small Claims Filing Fees are $31.00
Justice Court Filing Fees are $31.00
If paying by check please make them payable to: JUSTICE COURT
STATING YOUR CLAIM:
State the nature of your claim fully,
listing specific facts and circumstances about your claim.
You must itemize how you obtained the total amount of your claim if
it involves more than one item. You
may not diminish the amount of your claim in order to qualify for the
jurisdiction of this Court. For
example: if your evidence shows that you sustained $12,000 in damages, you
cannot tell the Court that you are "willing to take $10,000."
This would result in your claim being dismissed for lack of
AFTER SUIT IS FILED
SERVICE OF CITATION:
After you have
filed your petition the Court will issue and forward the Citation(s) to the
Constable or Sheriff's office you have indicated for service on the
Defendant(s). Although the
Citation will leave the Court promptly, it can take several weeks or more
for the Citation to be personally served.
It is your responsibility to ensure service of your Citation.
Check periodically by telephone either with this office or the
Constable or Sheriff's office directly.
Citation has been served the Defendant must file a written answer to the
suit on or before the Monday next following the expiration of ten days,
beginning with the date of service. If
he/she fails to do so, you will be notified by the Court to appear for a
"Default Hearing." You will
be asked to briefly state the facts of your case and present any
documentation to substantiate those damages.
You MUST prepare a written itemization of your damages.
SERVICEMEMBERS' CIVIL RELIEF ACT (SCRA)
If the defendant does not file an answer to the lawsuit, or does not appear in court, the plaintiff will NOT be able to receive a "default judgment" unless the plaintiff first files with the Court a
Civil Relief Act Affidavit
stating, under oath, that the
defendant is not in the military service on active duty
status. A false statement in this affidavit is a violation
of Federal Law! If a plaintiff does not have personal
knowledge of the defendant's military status, the Department
of Defense maintains a secure website where the Plaintiff
can obtain a status record. This website requires
registration of name and address, fax and telephone numbers,
email address and mother's maiden name, in order to use the
website. The form can be downloaded from this website,
SCRA Web Application
, or requested from the address below:
Department of Defense
Manpower Data Center (DMDC)
Military Verification Service
1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 400
Arlington, VA 22209-2593
In Small Claims
Court, a party may represent himself regardless of whether he is an
individual, proprietorship, or corporation.
In Justice Court, however, a corporation must retain counsel (an
attorney). Parties cannot be represented by non-attorney agents in
either venue. The Texas Rules
of Evidence and Texas Rules of Civil Procedure are in effect in Justice
Court suits, but not in Small Claim Court suits.
County Local Rule 2.8.1 of the Uniform Rules of Court
approved by the Supreme Court of Texas provides in part:
"Cases will be set for trial by the Court...not sooner than 75
days from the date of the request for the initial trial
setting. All further trial settings may be set at a time
deemed reasonable by the Court."
Witnesses: If there are witnesses who will not
come to Court voluntarily, you may request that a Subpoena be prepared
and served to secure their presence in Court. This should be done
at least two weeks before trial in order to allow for service of the
Subpoena. The Court does not guarantee that service will be
obtained. Successful service of witness subpoenas is your
responsibility. There is not a charge for the Court to issue a
Subpoena, but there is a service fee(See
and a $10.00 bill must be attached to the top of the Subpoena.
If the Defendant or any other
witness has documentation that you do not have, and that is necessary to
prove your case, you may have the person who has control of the evidence
subpoenaed to bring the documentation to Court. The items you want must be listed clearly and attached to the
Subpoena. All of the other
information mentioned above is also applicable to evidentiary subpoenas.
If you desire
a trial by jury you must pay a jury fee of $5.00 at least two working days
(48 hours) prior to trial. Requests
for a jury trial ordinarily require the trial date to be reset.
Jury trials often last several hours longer than a trial heard by the
Judge, so please plan your schedule accordingly.
Defendant files a written answer your case should be set for trial 30 to 45
days after the answer was received by the Court. You will receive written notice of your Court date.
If you change your address or phone number please notify the Court
immediately. Please arrive on
time for your scheduled trial or hearing.
MOTIONS FOR CONTINUANCE:
All Motions for Continuance, or requests
to reset the Court date, must be
in writing and received by the Court no later than three working
days prior to your Court date. Weekends
and Holidays are excluded. The Plaintiff and the Defendant are each entitled
to request one reset "only for good cause," and all other reset requests
must be made by agreement of both parties.
(Gov't. Code 28.033)
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER
party has ten (10) days in which to appeal the Judge's decision.
An appeal bond and "Notice of Appeal" must be filed with the
Court on or before 4:30pm on the 10th day after the date of
Judgment. Appeals filed after
this date will be denied.
Contact the Court and find out
the amount of the appeal bond required for your appeal.
a Notice of Appeal, file it with the Court along with a $15.00 appeal filing
fee, and mail a copy to the opposing party by certified mail, return receipt
a Cash Bond (Money Order or Cashier's Check only), a Signature Bond, or a
Surety Bond for the entire amount of the Appeal Bond required by the Court.
Court will then prepare a Transcript of the pleadings on file in your case
and send it to the County Court at Law.
All Court contact from this point on will be with the
Denton County Clerk's office at Metro (940) 349-2016 or (972) 434-8815
There will be filing fees required from the County Court, and they will contact
the party who is appealing regarding payment of those fees.
Motions for New Trial must be filed in writing within five (5) days from the
date of the Judgment.
WHEN YOUR DEFENDANT PAYS
THE JUDGMENT IN FULL:
Please notify the Court in
writing as soon as the Defendant pays the Judgment in full so that we may
release the judgment in our records.
COLLECTION OF JUDGMENTS:
If you receive a Judgment against the Defendant and the Defendant does not file
a Motion for New Trial within five days, does not file an Appeal within ten
days, or does not pay the Judgment within ten days you may seek other
remedies to collect your Judgment. The
Justice Court can not assist you in collection of your Judgment.
Below are listed some remedies that are available to you, and that
may assist you in the collection of the Judgment.
Other remedies may be available to you that are not
covered here. Please consult an
attorney for additional information.
You may obtain an
Abstract of Judgment any time after the 11th day from the date of Judgment.
The cost of an original Abstract is $5.00, and you may obtain them
from the Court. The Abstract
may then be filed in the office of the County Clerk in any County where you
may think the Judgment Debtor may own real property.
The Court can also provide a short list of the surrounding County
Clerk's offices where you could file the Abstract.
You may obtain a Writ of Execution any time after the 30th
day from the date of Judgment. A
Writ of Execution allows a Sheriff or Constable to try and seize certain
non-exempt property from the Defendant.
If property is seized, an auction will be held and the proceedings
from the sale will satisfy your Judgment.
The cost of a Writ of Execution varies from County to County, and you
may also want to contact the Constable or Sheriff in that County to discuss
what items are considered non-exempt and may be subject to execution.
A Writ of
Garnishment is available 30 days after the date of Judgment.
This is a new lawsuit and is a complicated procedure.
We recommend that you consult an attorney.
process requires a
Court hearing. We recommend
that you consult an attorney.