A lawsuit in Small Claims Court starts when you file a legal document called a complaint. The
complaint tells the other party and the judge why you are starting the lawsuit. Ask for a Complaint form at the
Circuit Clerk's Office in your local courthouse. You will need to write the following information on the
1. Your name, address, and telephone number (you will be called the Plaintiff)
2. The exact name and address of the person of business you want to sue (this party is called the Defendant)
3. The amount of money you claim that person or business owes you
4. A simple and short explanation of what happened and why you are suing
It is important to know the exact legal name and address of the person or business you want to sue, because if you
list the wrong name you may not be able to get your money. Sometimes the name on a store may not be its actual legal
If your claim is based on a contract or lease or other written document, a copy of that document must be attached
to each copy of the Complaint form.
After you have filled in the Complaint, return it to the Clerk. You will then have to pay a filing fee,
depending on how much money you are suing for. If you cannot afford the filing
fee, you have the right to ask the Judge to allow you to file you Complaint without paying the filing fee. In order
to do this, you must fill out an Application to Sue as an indigent person.
This form tells the Judge what your income is and why you cannot afford to pay the filing fee. If the Clerk does
not have any of these forms, then contact an attorney or ask to speak to the Judge. You should know that if you win
your case, the Defendant can be ordered to also pay your court costs, which includes the filing fee. Be sure that
you ask for court costs on the Complaint form.
At the time your case if filed, the Clerk will assign a number to it. Be sure to always have that number with you,
because it identifies your case.
At the time of filing your Complaint, you have the right to also request a jury trial in which a jury hears your
case instead of a Judge. This will require an additional filing fee. A jury trial is a very complex proceeding,
and it is recommended that you first consult with an attorney.