Sometimes, where you bring your lawsuit can affect the outcome more than any other factor. You may not have a choice where you can file your suit, but sometimes you do.
Generally speaking, you can bring a civil lawsuit in Small Claims Court, Justice Court, or Superior Court. Each of these venues is set up to handle different types of cases.
Small Claims Court
If the amount in controversy is $2,500 or less, you can go to Small Claims Court. The good things about this? Because procedures are simple, it is not hard to represent yourself, and lawyers are not allowed. This is often a good thing because it would be very difficult for a lawyer to keep her fees much below $2500.
For a small claim, you do not have to stay in Small Claims Court. For instance, if you want a lawyer, you can have the case transferred to Justice Court. (If you win, you might get your attorney’s fees reimbursed to you.) Remember that the other side has the same right to transfer to Justice Court.
Generally, Justice Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases involving amounts of $2,500 to 5,000. Also, if your matter is worth between $5,000 and $10,000 (not including attorney’s fees and costs), you have a choice whether to bring the matter in Justice Court or Superior Court.
The good thing about bringing such a case in Justice Court is that the procedures are simpler and, therefore, less expensive than those in Superior court. You will also get to trial faster in Justice Court. Also, the filing fees are lower in Justice Court ($93) than in Superior Court ($301). The bad thing is that, because Justices of the Peace are not required to be trained in the law, most are not. This can be a problem if your case involves any relatively complex legal issues.
This is where all claims of $10,000 or more must be filed. There is no ceiling on what you can claim. Because you will have to strictly adhere to all of the rules of civil procedure, few try to go it alone without a lawyer. You are permitted to do so, but keep in mind that you will get no special breaks because you are a layman.
Note that there are a few other factors affecting jurisdiction. For those, you should contact an attorney.