By Jedidiah McKeehan
In Tennessee, small claims court is called General Sessions Civil Court. This is the appropriate court if are suing for $25,000.00 or less (considered a “small claim” in the state of Tennessee). Any amount above $25,000.00 goes to a different court.
How Do You File a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
It’s pretty easy actually. The clerk’s office and/or website at the courthouse has a two-sided, one-page form for the civil warrant that you can fill out with your contact info, the contact info for the defendant, and about three lines for you to fill out explaining why you’re suing them and for how much. Depending on the county, you will have to pay between $120.00 and $250.00 to file your suit and get the sheriff’s office to serve the warrant on the defendant.
Kind of Cases Handled
The kind of cases handled by General Sessions Civil Court varies from county to county, but they always handle civil matters under $25,000.00 and detainer warrants (evictions). They may also handle divorces and probate matters.
Quick Access to a Judge
One of the main benefits to small claims court is you get in front of a judge very quickly. You can usually have a trial on your case within a month or two of filing your lawsuit. Whereas, if you file a lawsuit in circuit or chancery court, you will typically have to wait months, or even years, before your case gets to trial.
Who Decides Your Case
In small claims court, there is no jury, your case will be heard by a judge only.
All Cases can be Appealed
After the ruling occurs in small claims court, the judgment does not become “final” until 10 days after the trial. What does that mean?
It means that either side can appeal the case within 10 days of the trial, which is the major downside of going to small claims court.
So, if you win your case, the other side can appeal within 10 days. And if you lose your case, YOU can appeal within 10 days. Either way, the matter then goes to a different court and you have to start all over.
If no one appeals, you can get a resolution at the small claims court level within a month or two of filing your lawsuit, and if you win, you can act on your judgment 10 days after the trial.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.