Before Filing your Highlands County Small Claims Court Case
Before you file a small claims court action in Highlands County, you should communicate with the other party about what is exactly in dispute. The best way to accomplish this is to write a short succint letter outling your position and deliver it to the other party. There is a chance your issue can be resolved prior to filing your claim. This will be the quickest and easiest way to resolve your dispute.
Types of Cases Not Handled in Highlands County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court does not handle cases involving the following:
- traffic fines
Can I have a jury in my Highlands County Small Claims Court Case?
Even though it is small claims court, a jury trial is available. Even though a jury trial is available, the large majority of small claims court cases are heard in front of a judge. Either party may make a request for a jury trial. Small Claims Court Rule 7.150 allows for a jury trial upon written demand of the plaintiff (when the suit is filed) or defendant within five days after being served with notice of the suit or at the pre-trial conference. If either of these do not occur, then the case will be tried in front of a judge.
Who May File a Highlands County Small Claims Court Case?
You can file a small claims court case if you are one of the following:
- A person 18 years of age or older
- You are the parent or guardian of a minor and are filing on their behalf
- You are filing or acting on behalf of a corporation as an officer with prior written authorization
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Highlands County Small Claims Court
The plaintiff needs to obtain and complete a Statement of Claim form which is found at the Highlands County Small Claims Court Clerk’s office. The form needs to be typed or printed with a pen to ensure the legibility.
Rules for Highlands Small Claims Court Cases
All small claims court cases in Florida are governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules.
Highlands County Small Claims Court Fees and Costs
There are costs involved with filing a small claims court case in Highlands County which include a filing fee and a service fee. If a party prevails in the case, it can add the costs and fees into the judgment and recover for those costs as well. You should contact the Highlands County Clerk Court to inquire about the specific amount of the filing fee for your case.
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Highlands County
In Florida, a small claims court case can only be filed in the county where the incident giving rise to the claim occurred, the property involved in the case sits, or where the Defendant lives. If none of these apply, then the Highlands County Small Claims Court will not have proper jurisdiction to hear the case. If this occurs, you risk obtaining a judgment that can then be challenged and attacked by the defendant after the case when you begin to collect it (which would mean you would have to start all over in the proper county). A claim of up to $5,000.00, not including costs, interest, and attorneys fees, can be filed in small claims court in Highlands County. Chapter 34 of the Florida Statutes and Rule 7.010 authorize the limit on small claims court cases.
Highlands County Small Claims Court Pre-Trial Conference
The pre-trial conference is used for the court to attempt to see if your case can be resolved without a trial. This is usually done with an informal settlement conference or mediation. If the case cannot be settled, the court will set it for trial. The plaintiff needs to serve the Defendant before the pre-trial conference or the court will take the pre-trial conference off calendar. Appearances at pre-trial conferences by both plaintiff and defendant are mandatory. Whoever appears must have full authority to settle the case otherwise costs and attorney fees incurred by the opposing party may be imposed. 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. Depending on how many defendants are involved in a case and when each defendant was served, the court may schedule different dates for pre-trial conferences on the same case. If this occurs, the plaintiff is still requires to attend all the different pre-trial conference dates.
Highlands County Small Claims Court Courthouse
Small Claims cases can be filed at the Highlands County Courthouse which is located at: 590 S. Commerce Avenue Sebring, FL 33870 The courthouse can be reached at: 863-402-6564.
How to Effect Service on a Defendant in Highlands County Small Claims Court
Once a case is filed, the Plaintiff needs to take steps to serve all the Defendants which were named in the case. You need to knows the full name of the individual that you are suing. The plaintiff also needs a good address of where those individuals can be served. If you are suing a business, you need to ascertain whether the business is incorporated or not. If the business has incorporated, the plaintiff needs to ascertain the full name of the corporation and the name and address of a corporate officer or registered agent. The plaintiff can search for this information on the Florida Department of State, Department of Corporation websites at http://www.sunbiz.org or by phone at 850-245-6052. If a business has a fictitious name, you will need to obtain that as well. The fictitious name information can be obtained through the Department of State, Division of Corporations as well.