Plaintiffs in Alabama filing civil lawsuits in which the amount of relief requested is $3,000 or less may file a small claims suit through the district court. The Code of Alabama Title 12 outlines filing requirements and procedures and all small claims cases are subject to the Uniform Rules of Simplified Civil Procedure declared by the Alabama Supreme Court, so claims are the same throughout the state.
Decide if You Want Legal Representation
Small claims cases are simpler than larger civil cases because they’re designed to provide fast, inexpensive relief to the average citizen seeking a small judgment. Most small claims plaintiffs do not use the services of an attorney. However, in some cases you might want to seek legal advice or representation.
In Alabama, you can appear with or without an attorney, but you cannot seek recovery of attorney’s fees unless your attorney handles your small claims case.
Find the Correct Venue
You must file your small claims case in the correct venue, or location. Locate the division of the District Court in either:
- The county in which the defendant lives
- The county in which the defendant’s business is located
- The county in which the original dispute occurred
Complete a Complaint
A complaint is a brief statement by the plaintiff that contains the details of the case and the type and amount of relief requested. All small claims courts in Alabama use the same two forms for small claims complaints.
If you’re asking the judge for a monetary award, use the Statement of Claim: Complaint General form. If you’re asking the judge to order the defendant to return property that belongs to you, use the Statement of Claim: Complaint For Specific Property form. In both cases, the amount of money or the value of the property must not exceed $3,000.
Provide the following information on the complaint:
- The county in which you’re bringing the suit
- Your name and home address
- The defendant’s name and home address
- The dollar amount of relief requested, or a description of the property you want returned to you
- A brief description of why you believe the defendant owes you money or has property that is yours.
- Amounts for court costs and interest, if you’d like the judge to award relief for either
- Amounts for attorney’s fees, if your attorney is representing you in the case
If there’s more than one defendant in the case, complete a separate complaint for each.
File and Pay Fees
Make copies of your complaint form(s): one for your records, one for the court and a copy for each defendant. Take the forms to the county court clerk. She will date and stamp it and assign a case number and judge. Fees vary slightly by county and are due at the time of filing. They include a docket fee and a fee for summons service.
The county clerk gives your complaint and a summons to either the sheriff or a process server, who serves it to the defendant. A summons simply informs the defendant that he is being sued and compels him to appear in court. If you haven’t heard from the court within 14 days, contact the court clerk to makes sure that the defendant was successfully served.
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.