Pinellas County Small Claims Court Pre-Trial Conference
The pre-trial conference is a way for the court to try and resolve your case without a trial (often through informal mediation). If the case cannot be settled, the court will set it for trial. You need to make sure the Defendant has been served prior to the pre-trial conference or it will be cancelled by the court. Appearances at pre-trial conferences by both plaintiff and defendant are mandatory. Persons representing parties must have full settlement authority otherwise the court may impose court costs and attorney fees on the party failing to comply with this rule. A corporation may be represented at the pre-trial conference by an officer of the corporation or any employee authorized by an officer of the corporation. The court may set different dates if there are multiple defendants to a single case. If this occurs, the plaintiff is still requires to attend all the different pre-trial conference dates.
Service of Defendant in a Pinellas County Small Claims Case
Once a case is filed, the case cannot proceed until the Defendant has been served. The plaintiff needs to know the full names of all the individuals you are suing. You also need to a good address of where that person can be served. In order to sue a business, you must determine whether the business is incorporated. If a corporation is being sued, you must have the full name of the corporation and the name and address of a corporate officer or registered agent for the business. This information can be learned from the Department of State, Department of Corporations website for Florida which can be found online at http://www.sunbiz.org or by telephone at 850-245-6052. The plaintiff also needs to research whether a business is utilizing a fictitious business name. The Department of Corporations can assist you with this.
What Jurisdiction does the Pinellas County Small Claims Court Have?
In Florida, small claims court actions can only be filed in the county where the Defendant lives, where the incident giving rise to the action occurred, or where the property involved is located. If none of these apply, the court would not have jurisdiction and would be unable to hear your case. This may open a judgment you obtain to attack when you try to collect it. A claim of up to $5,000.00, not including costs, interest, and attorneys fees, can be filed in small claims court in Pinellas County. This is authorized under Rule 7.010 of the Florida Rules of Court and Chapter 34 of the Florida Statutes.
How do I file a small claims court case in Pinellas County?
The party filing the case needs to complete a Statement of Claim form (which can be obtained from the Pinellas Court Clerk’s Office). The form needs to be typed or printed with a pen to ensure the legibility.
Pinellas County Small Claims Court Fees and Costs
The costs for filing a Small Claims case in Pinellas County include the filing fee, which is based on the amount of your claim, as well as a service fee for summoning each party to court. If a party obtains a judgment in its favor, these court costs can be added into the total amount of the judgment. You should contact the Pinellas County Clerk Court to inquire about the specific amount of the filing fee for your case.
What Types of Cases are Not Handled in Pinellas County Small Claims Court?
Pinellas County Small Claims Court handles all types of cases except:
- alimony payments
- mortgage payments
- traffic court fines
Rules for Pinellas Small Claims Court Cases
Small Claims court cases in Pinellas County are governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules.
Can I have a jury in my Pinellas County Small Claims Court Case?
Even though it is small claims court, a jury trial is available. However, most small claims court cases are heard by a judge. The plaintiff or defendant can both make a request for a jury trial. Pursuant to Small Claims Court Rule 7.150, the plaintiff can file a written demand for a jury trial when filing the suit, and a defendant can request a jury trial either within five days of being served notice of the action or at the pre-trial conference. If neither of these occur, the case will be tried to a judge.
How to Prepare to File a Small Claims Court Case in Pinellas County
Before filing a case, it is important that you attempt to discuss your case with the opposing party about what the actual issue is. The easiest way for this is to draft and deliver a letter to the other party which succinctly details your complaint. There is a chance your issue can be resolved prior to filing your claim. Sending this initial communication will be the simplest and most efficient way of resolving your case.
Who is Able to File a Case in Pinellas County Small Claims Court?
You can file a small claims court case if you are one of the following:
- A person 18 years of age or older
- A parent or guardian on behalf of anyone under 18
- You are filing or acting on behalf of a corporation as an officer with prior written authorization
Pinellas County Small Claims Courthouse
Small Claims Court cases in Pinellas County can be filed at the Pinellas County Courthouse which is at: 315 Court Street Clearwater, FL 33756 The phone number for the courthouse is: 727-464-3341.