Legal Lens: Understanding the benefits and limits of small claims court

Legal Lens

The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – What do you know about small claims court? Attorney Andrea McNairy of Brown & Crouppen discusses everything you need to know.

“In Missouri that means anything under $5,000, things like getting security deposits back, small injury cases or personal property cases, or home-related property damage,” she said.

What kind of advice would McNairy offer for someone trying to get something or someone trying to defend themselves?

“The purpose of small claims court is you don’t have to have a lawyer,” she said. “The people making claims and defending themselves from claims can fill out the form themselves, appear themselves, not be expected to give a big opening or closing statement. But the advice I would give is if you have a claim, make sure the amount is limited to that amount of money.”

McNairy says you may want to retain a lawyer if the claim is larger than that amount.

“You don’t want to limit yourself unnecessarily,” she said.

Are there determining factors that can help someone decide if they should go to small claims court?

“The thing I say is you want to have your evidence. Receipts, pictures, documentation, witnesses, and make sure all documentation is filled out,” McNairy said. “And then, you appear if a summons is issued. But the process is designed to be smooth and to help people without legal representation to navigate themselves.”

Just make sure your claim isn’t worth more than $5,000.

“Once a decision is made in small claims court, you can’t go back and sue someone again to get access you would be owed,” McNairy said.

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