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You can bring your case through Small Claims Court if the amount owed does not exceed $5,000.
Any person(s) 18 years or older or any individual(s) doing business as a company may file a Small Claims case. A parent or guardian may file on behalf of a minor child. Each person who is a plaintiff in the claim must appear at the Clerk's Office to sign the complaint in the presence of a deputy clerk, or the signature must be notarized.
Generally, the Clerk's Office accepts cash, personal check, Mastercard, and Visa for the payment of filing fees. However, the Sheriff's fee must be paid using a Business Check or Money Order payable to the "Escambia County Sheriff's Office".
The paperwork needed for filing a suit in Small Claims will vary from case to case. You will need to bring three (Xerox) copies of any documentation that actually shows where the money being sued for has been expended. That could include anything from:
We do have the forms for filing your suit and information sheets explaining the process. Also, it is very important that you file your claim against the right party. The additional time you spend researching the correct name could make a difference in whether you are able to collect should a judgment be entered by the court in your favor.
If you are suing an individual doing business as a company, a partnership where there are several people doing business as a company, a corporation or an insurance company, it is important for you to research this information carefully. You can contact the Florida Secretary of State at 850-488-9000 to find out if the company is incorporated.
You must request this in your original complaint or the defendant can request a jury trial in their original answer. However, the Clerk does not assist with this procedure in any way.
Your case will be set for pretrial/mediation first, which normally is held within 50 days after your suit is filed. Any cases filed by an attorney or a bank or finance company will be set for pretrial and have the option to select mediation. All other cases filed will be set for mediation. These cases are ordered by the Court to attempt to settle the case by mediation.
Both you and the party that you are suing will sit down with a mediator to see if you can work out an agreement. If you are able to reach an agreement, that agreement will be binding and if the defendant fails to comply with the agreement you can request a judgment at that time.
If you are not able to reach an agreement or the defendant denies owing the money, the case will be referred to the Judge for a pretrial to be held. The case will then be set for a final hearing to go before the Judge to make a determination in the case.
You will be awarded a default final judgment.
The final hearing will be set in approximately six to eight weeks, depending on the Court's calendar.
You will be sent a hearing notice in the mail.
Contact the Clerk's office when you receive your notice in the mail and we will go over the procedures at that time. The fee to have a subpoena issued is $7. You will need to provide us with the name and the address of the person(s) you wish to subpoena. There is a $5 witness fee plus $0.06 cents per mile to and from the court. This fee is to be paid to the witness.
Normally, the final hearings are held in a courtroom with the litigants and their witnesses present. If the case is to be set for a jury trial, the jury trial will be held in a courtroom.
If at any time in the proceedings a settlement is reached between the parties, the plaintiff (person(s) who filed the suit) must notify the Clerk's office in writing of that settlement.
If the Judge rules on your behalf, a final judgment will be entered in your favor against the defendant(s).
A final judgment is a legal document stating that this money is owed to you. You must use the final judgment to collect your money against the defendant(s).
You may obtain a certified copy of the final judgment from the Clerk's office, service charges are required. The lien may be recorded in Official Records and will act as a lien against the other party's real property for 10 years. The lien may be extended for another 10 years, by re-recording a certified copy of the judgment and simultaneously recording an affidavit with the current address of the person who has a lien as a result of the judgment. See Section 55.10(2), Florida Statutes.
The Plaintiff may also file a Judgment Lien Certificate with the Department of State to obtain a lien on the Defendant's personal property located anywhere in Florida. The liens lapse after 5 years, but can be extended another 5 years by filing another judgment lien certificate. See Sections 55.204(1) and (3), Florida Status. Visit SunBiz for more information and forms.
The Plaintiff may ask the Clerk's Office to issue a Writ of Execution (directing the sheriff to levy on available non-exempt personal or real property of the Defendant) or Writ of Garnishment (seeking to have a portion of the Defendant's wages withheld). See Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.550 and 1.907; Florida Small Claims Rule 7.200; and Chapter 77, Florida Statutes. Court rules may be viewed online at the Florida Bar.
Please refer to the Florida Bar's Small claims: The who, what, where and why of collection lawsuits.