Anyone, 18 years or older, can file a claim in Small Claims Court. A parent or guardian may sue on behalf of someone younger than 18.  The person suing in Small Claim Court is called the Claimant and the person being sued is called the Defendant. Corporations, partnerships and associations cannot sue in Small Claims Court; they must use a different Civil Court division, called the Commercial Small Claims Part. However, a corporation, partnership or association can be a Defendant in a Small Claims Court action.

To start your case, you, or someone on your behalf, must file, in person, a “Statement of Claim” form with the Small Claims Court. Visit the New York City Civil Court website for official forms. You may file a claim form by mail only if you live outside New York City and you want to sue a Defendant located in New York City, or if you are over 65 or you are disabled and cannot come to court in person.  When completing the “Statement of Claim” form the Claimant must explain the reason for the lawsuit and include the amount in dispute.

The locations of the Small Claims Courts in the five boroughs of New York City are listed here. In order to sue an individual or business in a New York City Small Claims Court, that individual or business must be located in New York City. If the Defendant resides or works or has a place of business in New York City, you may file your Statement of Claim in either the Small Claims Court located in the borough you live in, or in the Small Claims Court in the borough where the Defendant resides, works or has a place of business.

You will also be required to pay a filing fee ($15 for claims of $1,000 or less; $20 for claims more than $1,000 to $5,000). You must pay the fee by cash, certified check, money order or bank check made out to the “Clerk of the Civil Court.” The court does not accept personal checks. When you file your Statement of Claim, the Small Claims Court Clerk will give you a date to appear for a trial of your case. Cases are automatically set for evening hours; there are also daytime court hours for people who cannot come in the evening.

When you (the Claimant) file your small claim, you must give the Court Clerk the name and address of the person or business you want to sue (the Defendant).  If you are not sure of the name of a business, you can look that information up in the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located. The Small Claims Clerk will mail a notice of your claim to the Defendant. (You must pay for the cost of the postage for this mailing.) The notice of claim states the reason for your claim briefly and the amount you are seeking from the Defendant. This notice will also tell the Defendant the date and time to appear for the trial. The Court Clerk will send the notice of claim by first class mail and by certified mail. If the notice sent is returned as undeliverable, the clerk will provide you, the Claimant, with a new hearing date. You can then arrange for personal delivery of the notice to the Defendant. You or any other party cannot personally serve the Defendant. However, anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the action can personally deliver the notice to the Defendant. If a Claimant does not serve a Defendant four months after filing the claim, the action will be dismissed.

If you’re the Defendant in a Small Claims Court case, click here to learn about how to prepare your case. To learn more about preparing for trial as the Claimant, click here.