Your Guide to Staten Island Small Claims

Claudia Diaz - New York - November 15, 2022

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Staten Island is one of the five boroughs of New York City, and like the other four boroughs has a small claims court. The Staten Island small claims court handles a variety of cases and allows individuals and businesses to file lawsuits for up to $10,000. In Staten Island small claims court, you can only sue for money, if you were looking to force the person you are suing to do something or return your property you may be looking into the wrong court. To learn about the small claims process, how to file a lawsuit in Staten Island small claims and more read the article below. 

Staten Island Small Claims Courts Location

In Staten Island there is only one courthouse that handles small claims. Below is the address. 

Staten Island Small Claims (Richmond County Small Claims) 

927 Castleton Avenue

Staten Island, NY 10310

Phone Number: (718)-675-8460

Common Types of Staten Island Small Claims Lawsuits

You can bring a small claims lawsuit to Staten Island small claims court, as long as there is not a better court that can handle your lawsuit. For example, if you want to evict someone you would need to go to Housing Court instead of Staten Island small claims court because Housing Court handles evictions. 

Here are common types of small claims lawsuits filed in Staten Island small claims court:

  • Someone hit your car and now they won't pay for the damages to your car.

  • Your neighbor damaged your front door and they won't pay to fix the damages.

  • You lent your roommate money and they won't pay you back.

  • You paid a contractor to build an extension off the back of your home in  Livingston but they never showed up.

  • Your clients won't pay you for services you rendered. 

  • You move out of your West New Brighton apartment and your landlord refuses to return your security deposit.

  • You own a small business in Oakwood Beach and your customer refuses to pay their outstanding invoices. 

  • You gave someone a loan and they won’t pay back the loan amount. 

  • You are a landlord and own a rental unit in St. George and your tenant refuses to pay rent. 

How Much Can I Sue for in Staten Island Small Claims?

This is also known as the "small claims court limits." In Staten Island small claims, as with all the NYC boroughs, you can sue for a maximum of $10,000. 

Remember, in Staten Island small claims court you cannot sue to force someone to return your property or to force them to do something. For example, you hired a web designer to design your new online blog. You pay in advance but the web designer never builds you a website. You cannot sue the web designer in Staten Island small claims court to force them to build the blog, however, you can sue for the amount you paid upfront for work that was never performed.

What happens if I am owed more than what I can sue for in Staten Island small claims?

What if you are fired from your job and you want to sue for all unpaid wages, which amount to $15,000? You may want to consider filing your lawsuit in regular court because the max you will be able to recover in Staten Island small claims court is $10,000. However, small claims courts are more efficient and more affordable than other types of courts. 

You also cannot file multiple smaller lawsuits to get around the claim limit. However, if you have multiple claims you may be able to file two different lawsuits, one for each claim. 

How Do I Calculate How Much to Sue for?

Calculating how much to sue for in small claims can be trickier than it seems. This is because, in small claims court, you will have to calculate how much you are owed and be able to prove that amount to the judge. 

‍Here are some helpful tips for calculating how much to sue for:

  • Use receipts. For example, if someone hit your car and you spent $3,000 getting your car fixed, you would be able to show the judge the receipt from the mechanic.

  • Use estimates. For example, if your neighbor’s tree falls on top of your roof because the tree was poorly maintained, you can get an estimate from a roofer for how much it will cost to repair your roof and use that estimate when calculating your claim. 

How Much Does it Cost to Sue in Staten Island Small Claims Court?

If you are an individual suing another individual or business, then you will pay:

  •  $15 if you are suing for $1000 or less, and 

  •  $20 if you are suing for more than $1000.

If you are a business suing an individual or business (these are known as commercial claims), then you will pay $25 plus postage. 

If you are low-income and cannot afford to pay filing costs, you can apply for a waiver of your court fees. In order to apply, you should call the court clerk’s office and ask about the filing procedures. Generally, you will have to go in person to the courthouse to make a statement under oath. This waiver is unfortunately named the Poor Person Relief, but don't let this deter you from applying if it is something you need to be able to file your lawsuit. 

Is it Worth it to Sue Someone in Staten Island Small Claims?

Ultimately, this is a decision only you can make. But the way most of our clients decide if it is worthwhile to file a lawsuit is by measuring the cost v. benefit: 

  • Cost. Spending $20 to get back  $1,000 is very affordable.

  • How soon will you find out whether you won? Most small claims hearings in Staten Island are delayed, but as courts work through their backlog hearings are being scheduled faster. 

  • Time spent. Because our court system is outdated and very frustrating it is hard to measure how much time you truly spend on a lawsuit. You may have to go a few times to the court to file the lawsuit especially if you need more information or do it wrong. The good news is that with People Clerk, you can prepare and file your small claims lawsuit from home while we take care of the logistics. 

  • Justice. For some, it isn't about the time or the money. It is about making sure the other person does not continue to harm or scam others in the future. 

Statute of Limitations and Staten Island Small Claims 

Staten Island has statute of limitations, which are deadlines, that let you know by when you should file your small claims lawsuit. Generally, statute of limitations range between 3-6 years. 

Also, the statute of limitations is the same for a small claims lawsuit as for other types of lawsuits in New York. For example, there will be a different statute of limitations that addresses property damage cases and personal injury cases. 

We wrote an entire article on the New York Statute of Limitations if you have doubts about when you can sue. 

Here are some common questions about the statute of limitations:

  • Does my hearing have to be before the statute of limitations? No, but your case has to be FILED before the statute of limitations.

  • Can I still file my small claims lawsuit if the statute of limitations already passed? You will still be able to file your lawsuit because it is not the clerk who decides whether the statute of limitations has passed. The judge is the only person who can decide whether the statute of limitations has passed. If the statute of limitations has passed, the judge will let you know at the hearing and will close your case.

  • How do I get more certainty about the statute of limitations? (1) consult a lawyer before suing in small claims, (2) review the New York state code for your type of claim, and (3) let the judge decide at the hearing.

Do not wait until the last minute to file your Staten Island small claims lawsuit. Here is why:

  1. If you file your lawsuit incorrectly and need to be able to refile your lawsuit, your second lawsuit may miss the statute of limitations.

  2. You begin to lose your evidence the more you wait. Many small claims lawsuits have text messages as evidence and if you lose your phone and a backup you won't have access to those text messages. The same goes for other forms of evidence like paper receipts or letters. 

  3. You begin to lose credibility the more you wait. The judge will be curious to know why you waited so long to file your lawsuit if what you are saying is true.

What to Do Before You File in State Island Small Claims?

Here are some steps you can take before you file a small claims suit:

  1. Ask the other party to pay you back.

  2. Decide where to file the lawsuit.

  3. Determine who needs to sue (the "claimants").

  4. Determine who you need to sue (the "defendants").

  5. Make sure to have the information you will need to prepare the small claims lawsuit.

Ask the Other Party to Pay You Back

In Staten Island small claims court, individuals filing a lawsuit are not required to send a demand letter before filing. However, we recommend you ask the other party to pay you back either over the phone or preferably in writing in the form of a demand letter. 

Here are two reasons why you should send a demand letter: 

  • The other party will take your written letter as a more formal and serious request.

  • If you send a demand letter you can later include a copy of the letter as part of your evidence to show the judge that you gave the other party an opportunity to resolve the dispute before escalating it to small claims court. 

If you are a corporation suing in Staten Island small claims court there are special rules you need to be aware of:

  • You are required to mail a demand letter at least 10 days before filing. 

  • Include a copy of your demand letter with the lawsuit and have a notary certify that you sent a demand letter. 

Figure Out in Which Court to File Your Staten Island Small Claims Lawsuit 

Unfortunately, it isn't about which court is closest or most convenient to you. Before going to your nearest small claims court to file your small claims lawsuit, take some time to figure out which court has "authority" over the other party. This is known as "jurisdiction."

To sue someone in Staten Island small claims court, the other party must live, work or have an office in Staten Island. If you are suing a landlord, you can sue the landlord where the rented unit is located as long as the small claims lawsuit is regarding the rented unit. So in most instances, you will likely need to sue in the small claims court that is most convenient to the other party. 

Here is the relevant code section: “... provided that the defendant either resides, or has an office for the transaction of business or a regular employment within the city of New York, or where claimant is a tenant or lessee of real property owned by the defendant and the claim relates to such tenancy or lease, and such real property is situated within the city of New York” (New York City Civil Court Act (CCA) CHAPTER 693, ARTICLE 1801). 

Why can't all courts have authority over the other party? Because this is what your elected officials decided was fair. The logic is that it isn't fair for someone without a connection to Staten Island to be sued in Staten Island.  

What happens if I file in the wrong small claims court? You will likely still be able to file your lawsuit as this is a decision for the judge to make which means that you may not find out until the hearing that you filed your lawsuit in the wrong court. This means that they may close your case and you will have to refile in the right court. This is risky because if the statute of limitations has passed, then you won't be able to win even if you file in the right court the second time.

Determine Who Needs to Sue (the “Claimants”)

The person or business filing the lawsuit is normally called the claimant. Deciding who needs to be included in a lawsuit as a claimant will not be hard. Ask yourself, who is owed money? Anyone who is owed money should be included in the lawsuit.

‍When in doubt, it is better to include everyone who potentially is owed money and let the judge decide at the hearing. If a judge doesn't think someone should be included in the lawsuit, they will take that person off the lawsuit at the hearing and leave everyone else as part of the lawsuit. Otherwise, a judge may have you refile the lawsuit.

Here are some common examples:

  • You were driving your brother’s car and another driver hit you while driving. It will cost $1,000 to fix the car. Your brother should be included in the lawsuit since he is the registered owner. Always include the registered owner of a car if a car is involved in the lawsuit. 

  • You and your roommate move out of your New Springville apartment and ask your landlord to return your $2,000 security deposit. Your landlord refuses to return the $2,000. Since both you and your roommate are owed the money so the judge will want to make sure you both are part of the lawsuit.

Determine Who You Need to Sue (the “Defendants”).

The person or business being sued is called the defendant. Ask yourself, who is responsible for what happened to me?

Here are some tips for determining who you need to sue:

  • When in doubt, sue everyone you think is responsible and let the judge decide at the hearing. You don't want the judge to close your lawsuit because even though they think you are right, you didn't sue the right person or business.

  • Security deposit lawsuits. The most common mistake we see is suing a property management company and not the landlord in security deposit cases. You want to make sure you sue the person or business listed on your lease or rental agreement as they are the ones holding on to your security deposit plus anyone else you also think is responsible.

  • Car accident lawsuits. Don't forget to sue the driver that is responsible for hitting your car in addition to the owner of the car. 

Make Sure to Have the Information You Will Need to Prepare the Small Claims Lawsuit

As you prepare your Staten Island small claims lawsuit, make sure that you have the correct information for the person or business you are suing.

Suing an individual in Staten Island small claims:

  • You will need the individual's full legal name and their home, office, or work address.

  • What happens if I don't have the address of the person I am suing? You will need to find this information before suing them. Use Google, Linkedin, or consider having someone run a report called a "Skip Trace" that looks for their information on different databases.

Suing a business in Staten Island small claims:

  • Why is suing a business in small claims court trickier than it seems? Because most people don't spend the time figuring out the correct information to list on their Staten Island small claims lawsuit.

  • You need to narrow down a business’s official legal name before suing them in Staten Island small claims court. What is an official legal name? This is the name the business has used to incorporate its business. The reality is that many businesses are not incorporated (they don't need to be) which means that you are suing an individual and not a business. For example, you paid ABC Movers to move your stuff from Brooklyn to Staten Island. ABC Movers never came to pick up your belongings so you decide to sue them in small claims. You first need to determine whether ABC Movers is a corporation, LLC, or an individual using the name ABC Movers.

  • Many businesses also do business using a name other than their official legal name. This is called a "dba" or a "fictitious business name” or trade name. 

  • Once you have determined the official legal name, you will be able to sue the correct business and serve the correct person on behalf of a business.

How to File a Small Claims Lawsuit in Staten Island Small Claims Court

Here are the 4 steps to taking someone to small claims court in Staten Island:

  1. Prepare the lawsuit

  2. File the lawsuit

  3. Serve the lawsuit

  4. Prepare for the hearing

We break down each one of these steps below.

Preparing Your Staten Island Small Claims Lawsuit

If you are an individual, you will need to properly fill out a Statement of Claim (CIV-SC-50). 

If you are a business, you will need to properly fill out a Statement of Claim (CIV-SC-70). 

Once you prepare the forms, you will need to file them with the court. 

Filing Your Small Claims Lawsuit

You can submit the Staten Island small claims forms in person or by mail. 

  • It is good practice to take 2 copies of the form properly filled out.

  • Make sure to take proper payment, the court accepts cash or money order. 

In Staten Island, you currently don’t have the ability to file your case directly with the court online. 

How to Serve Your Staten Island Claims Lawsuit

Once you file your claim with the small claims court clerk, it is up to the clerk to notify the other party that they have been sued (this is called “serving”). The court will mail the lawsuit to the other party. 

If the mail comes back as undelivered, you will be able to serve the lawsuit using the sheriff or a registered process server. To find out if your lawsuit has been properly served you will need to call the court. 

How to Prepare for Your Small Claims Hearing

To prepare for your Staten Island small claims court hearing:

  • Research the law. We recommend you read up on laws that will support your claim. This may be the time to consult with an attorney. For example, if you were in a car accident and want to claim personal injuries you may need to speak to an attorney to better understand your claim. 

  • Prepare your evidence. All your evidence should be collected and organized with dates and titles. For example, if you are a small business owner and you are suing a customer for unpaid invoices make sure to include all the invoices you sent your customer. 

  • Prepare what you will say. The judge will first ask the person who filed the lawsuit to tell them why they are suing. The judge will then ask the person being sued why they don’t owe the person who sued them any money. 

  • Bring multiple copies of your evidence. You should bring at least three copies of your evidence. One copy for you, one copy for the judge, and one copy for the other party.

People Clerk can help you organize your evidence for your Staten Island small claims hearing.  

What Accommodations Can the Court Provide? 

  • If you or a witness do not speak English well, you can tell the clerk when you file your lawsuit and they will assign an official interpreter to your case.

  • If you need accommodations for a disability, each court has different policies. To find out what can be done for you, make sure to call the court or the clerk and convey your needs, they will tell you what needs to be done in order to accommodate those needs.

Can I Have a Lawyer Represent Me in Staten Island Small Claims?

Yes. You are allowed to hire a lawyer to help you during your lawsuit and represent you in court. This decision is up to you to make, and although getting a lawyer seems like an obvious decision, legal fees can quickly add up. This shouldn’t discourage you from proceeding in small claims court on your own. 

Consider that the other party in the lawsuit may also elect to hire a lawyer to represent them. In the case that both parties decide to have a lawyer represent them, the judge can move the case from small claims to civil court.

Is Small Claims Court My Only Option?

In Staten Island, your 2 major potential remedies outside of small claims are Online Dispute Resolution or Small Claims Mediation. 

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

  • ODR is a free service offered by the court. 

  • It is a 24/7 service in which negotiation and conversation can happen between the parties in order to come to a mutual agreement without having to go to court.

What is mediation and how does the process work? 

  • Mediation is a meeting between you, the other party, and a neutral person called a mediator. 

  • Mediation is used as a way for parties to come to a mutually agreeable solution or settlement. The settlement can be for the same amount of money being claimed and can involve other non-monetary agreements between the parties. 

  • Staten Island small claims courts usually host free mediations. In most instances, the court will send your case to mediation first to see if you can reach a settlement.

  • The mediator's role is to help you and the other party resolve your conflict. If you resolve your conflict, you don’t need to go in front of the judge. 

  • You will still need to bring all your evidence to work through your conflict with the other party and the mediator. 

  • If you do not reach a settlement during mediation you may continue with your court hearing in front of a judge, going to mediation does not remove your rights to go to trial. 

Author

Claudia Diaz

Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia is a lawyer and certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts

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