If you want to file a small claims case in Missouri, it's important to first familiarize yourself with the relevant state laws, which set out the types of claims that can be heard by the Circuit Court judge in the small claims division. Missouri laws governing small claims cases and proceedings are found in the Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 482 and the Rules of the Small Claim Division of the Circuit Court.
Missouri Circuit Court clerks will assist you with basic questions about court procedures and help you fill out the Petition form. However, they cannot provide legal advice. If you’re unsure about how to proceed with your small claims case, consult an attorney.
Determine if Your Case is Eligible for Small Claims Court
Not all cases may be heard in the small claims court. In Missouri, the following restrictions apply:
- You must request a monetary award. The small claims court cannot assist you with evictions or cases involving the return of your property.
- The amount of money requested must not exceed $5,000, plus court costs and interest.
- You may not request a jury trial.
- You may represent yourself or have an attorney present.
- You may only file 12 small claims cases within a calendar year.
Determine the Correct Venue for Your Case
Small claims cases are heard by Circuit Court judges. Missouri has 45 Circuit Courts. You must file your case in the correct venue, or location. You may file:
- in the county where the defendant lives
- in the county where the defendant’s business is located
- in the county where the transaction or incident occurred
Check with the Circuit Court clerk to ensure that you’re filing in the correct county.
File Within the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file your case. The statute of limitations begins on the day of the incident, or the day on which the issue was discovered. The time period varies depending on the type of claim.
- You have five years to file cases involving personal injury, damage to property or breach of contract.
- You have 10 years to file cases involving a breach of a written promise to pay money.
- Other cases must be filed within two years.
File your case as soon as you’re aware of the issue. If you wait to file your case, it may be difficult to locate the defendant, and you may lose track of important evidence such as contracts or accident details.
Complete a Small Claims Court Petition
To initiate your small claims case, you must file a Petition. Each county in Missouri uses the same form for small claims cases. To fill out the Petition, provide:
- The name of the county where you're filing
- Your name, address and telephone number
- The name, address and telephone number of the defendant
- A short statement detailing the issues of the case
- Your signature and the date
Make a copy of the Petition for your own records and take the original form to the Circuit Court clerk. File the form and submit the appropriate fees, which are due at the time of filing. Fees vary by county and include the cost of sending a certified copy of the Petition and a Summons to the defendant.
Try to settle your case with the defendant before you sue in small claims court. If you’re able to come to an agreement, you’ll save time and money.
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.