Can You Sue For Attorney Fees In Small Claims Court?

First of all, a small claims court is a special court where arguments, disagreements, and small disputes are quickly resolved without spending so much of your money. It has simplified rules and conducts informal hearings. Generally, it does not allow lawyers to get involved in the trials. However, there are some states, like Illinois and New York, that permit the representation of an attorney.

A small claims court is considered as the People’s Court, which means it permits anyone, whether you are an American citizen or not, can file a court action and have it defended in this court.

Can You Recover Attorney Fee by Suing?

In most cases, an individual or a solely-owned business can claim at a maximum of $10,000. Meanwhile, a  Small Claims Courtcorporation, a limited liability company (LLC), or other types of businesses can resolve disputes up to $5,000. But knowing that you can not have an attorney to represent you, can you sue for attorney fees in small claims court?

The answer depends on where you live. In California, a legal representation in small claims court is typically not allowed, but you can recover attorney fee by suing in the special court if it was either provided for by a law or stated in a contract signed by the parties involved. If for instance, the contract has stated such provision, then you have the right to recover the fees as the one who won the case.

Despite not allowing lawyers in this court, you can still consult an attorney and seek for his or her legal advice to assist you before or after you file the claim. You also have the right to hire a lawyer to be your legal representative for a trial de novo (a new trial by a different tribunal) or to help you make a sound judgment. With the exception of trial de novos and other very rare instances, attorney fees can not be recovered “as court costs or damages.

Limits of Claims in a Small Claims Court

How much can you sue for attorney fees in small claims court? Apparently, the amount that you can recover attorney fee by suing still depends on the provisions of the law or a contract, but the claims should not go over $10,000. If your claim exceeds the limit, then you need to surrender the dispute’s balance to file a court action in a small claims court. For example, a business with a $6,000-worth claim is allowed up to $5,000 (as previously stated). The company can not say that there were two claims of $3,000.

Moreover, according to California Department of Consumer Affairs, no claimant can file more than two cases over $2,500 in all states during any calendar year.

For instance, if you filed a $4,000-worth court action in April 2016 and another $4,000-worth court action in August 2016, then you can no longer file a court action more than $2,500 until January 1, 2017. You can file as many court actions as you want as long as it does not exceed the remaining $2,500. But this limitation is not applicable to a public entity such as a city, county, school district, community college district, county office of education, local district, among others.

Filing Fees in a Small Claims Court

The costs of filing a case in a small claims court depend on how much your lawsuit is claiming. Here are the filing fees:

– $30 for claims reaching $1,500 or less

– $50 for claims between $1,500 and $5,000

– $75 for claims above $5,000

If for instance, a plaintiff was able to file over 12 small claims court actions for one year, then the filing fee for the next lawsuits is $100 each. And in case when you win the court action, then the defendant needs to pay the filing fee as ordered by the small claims court.