Small Claims Section
The Small Claims Section is a court in which you may sue someone to collect a small amount of money that you believe is owed to you. Because procedures in Small Claims are simpler than in other courts, persons usually can file and present their cases relatively quickly and inexpensively, and often without an attorney.
Small Claims handles cases in which the demand is not more than $3,000. If the amount of money you are trying to recover is more than $3,000, but less that $15,000 your case should be filed in the regular Special Civil Part. One exception to this is if your action is against a landlord for failure to return a security deposit, the maximum demand is $5,000. Cases in which damages are more that $15,000 must be filed in the Law Division of the Superior Court.
If you believe you are entitled to damages greater than $3,000 but still wish to sue in Small Claims, you give up you right to recover damages over $3,000. The additional money cannot be claimed later in a separate lawsuit.
The person filing the complaint is called the plaintiff. The person being sued is the defendant. The plaintiff must be 18 years or older, and if not, the complaint must be filed by a parent or guardian.
Where to File
A complaint must be filed in the Office the Special Civil Part of the county where at least one defendant lives or where the defendant’s business is located. If there is more than one defendant, the complaint can be filed in the county where any of the defendants live or are located. If none of the defendants live or are located in New Jersey, the complaint must be filed where the cause of the complaint occurred. A complaint for the return of a security deposit may be filed in the county where the landlord lives or where the landlord’s property is located.
Once a complaint is filed
Once a complaint is filed with the appropriate fees, the court will notify all parties of the date and time that they are required to appear for trial. Defendants are not required to file an answer in small claims. They may, however, file a counterclaim if they believe that the plaintiff who is suing them owes them money.
If the plaintiff does not appear at the trial, the case may be dismissed. If the defendant does not appear at the trial, the plaintiff may request default judgment form the court.
Types of Claims
Breach of written or oral contract.
Return of money used as a down payment.
Property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident.
Damage or loss to property
Consumer complaints for defective merchandise or faulty workmanship
Payment for work performed.
Claims based on bad checks
Claims for back rent
Return of a tenant's security deposit.
Please remember that is you believe you are entitled to damages greater than $3,000.00 and sue in Small Claims, you can only recover damages up to $3,000.00.
CLAIMS THAT CANNOT BE FILED
The following is a general list of claims that cannot be filed in Small Claims:
Claims arising from professional malpractice (for example; alleged malpractice by a doctor, dentist or lawyer)
Claims for support or alimony from a marital or a domestic dispute
Claims arising from a probate matter.
Location of Forms for Filing
Civil Case Intake Office
118 Washington Street, Room 121
Toms River, New Jersey 08754
**Forms are also available on our website under the forms tab.**
Documents to be filed that require a fee should be delivered to the fee processing office at 120 Hooper Avenue, 2nd Floor, Room 214.
For legal advice about your rights, you should contact a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer contact the Lawyers' Referral Service of the County Bar Association. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may contact the Legal Services Program to see if you are eligible to receive free legal services.
Lawyers' Referral Service
Ocean County Bar Association Referral Service - 732-244-2121 ext.3946
South Jersey Legal Services - 1-800-496-4570 or 732-608-7794