Claims NOT handled in New Jersey Small Claims Court
- You cannot file an action alleging malpractice in Small Claims Court
- Any action for support (either alimony or otherwise)
- Probate matters (you are claiming you are owed under a will, trust, or other estate instrument)
Types of Actions Generally Filed in Small Claims Court:
- Oral Breach of Contract and Written Breach of Contract
- Action for the Return of a Down Payment
- Action for Property Damage to a Motor Vehicle
- Damage or Loss of Personal Property
- Consumer complaints of faulty workmanship or defective merchandise
- Payment for Labor Performed
- Checks Written Without Funds in the Account
- Payment for Back Rent
- Return of security deposit (remember special rule can sue up to and including $5,000)
Can I file my case in New Jersey?
A claim can be filed in a County if at least one defendant lives there (or their business is located there). A business is located there is the business is actually conducting business in that county (“”doing business”") or it is where the business’s registered office is located. For example if you want to sue your mechanic and their shop is located in New Jersey, you may file your case here. If you have multiple defendants in your case, you may file in whichever County one of the defendants is located. If no defendants reside in a New Jersey County, you need to file your case in the County where your complaint occurred.
Small Claims Court is one of three sections of New Jersey Superior Court’s Special Civil Part (the other two sections are Landlord / Tenant and regular Special Civil Part). Small Claims cases allow one party to sue another for monetary damages. Procedures for small claims court in New Jersey are much simpler than in other courts. Because of this, one is able to file and present a case quickly and inexpensively. Generally, people file their own cases and represent themselves in court. In Atlantic, one can only file an action seeking up to, and including, $3,000. This is true for all Small Claims Courts in New Jersey (no matter what County they are filed in). If a party has a claim more than $3,000, but less than $15,000.01, than the case should be filed in the regular Special Civil Part. Word of Caution: If your claim is for more than $3,000, you can file it in small claims court, but you give up your right to collect any money in excess of $3,000. You cannot recoup this excess in a separate or subsequent action.
New Jersey Special Civil Part
Special Civil Part handled cases where the amount exceeds the limits of small claims court but is not asking for more than $15,000. In these cases, the rules are not as relaxed as in Small Claims Court. Note: If your case exceeds $15,000, it needs to be filed in the Law Division of your County’s Superior Court.
New Jersey Ombudsman
Each County in New Jersey has an Ombudsman. They can assist you with questions you may have about your small claims case. Visit the County page you are interested in to find out the contact information for the Ombudsman assigned to your county.
Appeals from New Jersey Small Claims Court Cases
If a party doesn’t agree with a decision on a small claims court case, an appeal may be filed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court within 45 days of the judgment. You need to file a Notice of Appeal, a copy of the Request for Transcript, and a Case Information Statement within the 45 days with the Clerk of the Appellate Division located at the Hughes Justice Complex, Trenton. You also need to provide copies to all the parties to the case (usually the opposing party or parties), the clerk of the Special Civil Part where your case was first heard, and the judge who decided the case. Additionally, the person seeking an appeal has to pay a filing fee of $200. An additional deposit of $300 is required to be posted within 30 days (of the Notice of Appeal). This deposit can be used to pay settlement costs or court costs associated with the appeal if you lose on appeal. This deposit is returned to you if you prevail. Additionally, you need to obtain a copy of the transcript from the original trial. The transcript is a copy of the record of what happened in court on the day of the trial (and reads much like a script). The transcript can be expensive. You are required to post the estimate for the cost of the transcript. Alternatively, you will be charged $300 for each day or partial day of trial transcript required for the appeal (most small claims court cases only require part of a court’s day). Because of the expense of an appeal, it is very important to ensure you are ready and prepared for the original trial – to save you the time and headaches of appealing an incorrect ruling. For additional information on appeals from small claims court judgments in New Jersey, contact the Office of the Clerk of the Appellate Division at (609) 292-4822.
Note: If you are under 18, the complaint for a small claims court action must be completed by an adult.