The Difference in Small and Large Claims Court

If you find yourself in a civil lawsuit, a little research will highlight a huge difference between small and large claims. One of the most important determining factors that distinguish each is knowing the legal process for both types of claims. Understanding differences can help you better prepare yourself before presenting your case to the courts. Below are some of the main differences to take into consideration before you continue.

Amount of Claim

•Small Claims
There is a maximum of $5,000 in small claims court for the amount you want to recover. This cost excludes attorney fees and interest. An action in small claims can only be for requests of money judgments.

•Large Claims
The amount you may claim for a money judgment in large claims court is between $5,000 and $30,000, excluding attorneys’ fees and interest. You may also include demands for a protective judgment order.


•Small Claims
The proceeding will be considered a special hearing and will mean the district court sets aside specific days and times to hear these types of cases.

•Large Claims
The District Court will hear large claims proceedings throughout the week during normal court hours.

Court Rules of Evidence

•Small Claims
These claims are handled in the courts as an informal matter. No formal evidence rules will be applied. Non-lawyers will be able to prepare and present a small claims case for a hearing or trial.

•Large Claims
Formal evidence rules will have to be adhered to for large claims cases. Anyone preparing or presenting large claims in court will need to both read and fully understand the rules that apply to documents, testimonies and other documents about the case. Attorneys are necessary for large claims hearings and trials.


Discovery is a term used in legal cases to refer to ways defendants and prosecutors can learn more information concerning the other side’s case. This can include information about depositions and interrogations.

•Small Claims
In a small claims court case, no discoveries are allowed.

•Large Claims
In large claims cases, a limited number of interrogatories will be allowed. No more than 15 written questions about the other side’s case will be admitted. If the other side agrees in writing, depositions may be conducted.


•Small Claims
For those who lose in their District Court with no agreements made with the other side about winning, your ability to appeal the court’s decision is considered de novo. This means you will present your case to the court again.

•Large Claims
Any appeals for large claims are on the record. They can be appealed, but no new evidence may be added to the proceedings.

The locations for a small and large court case proceeding will be handled at your local district court systems. Both claims will begin with the drafting and filing of the case using a Summons and Complaint. If the defendant joins or answers the filed Summons and Complaint, a conference will be soon scheduled with a specific judge or branch.

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About the author: Wifred Murray

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