Business LawBusiness Litigation

Can I sue in Small Claims court for more than $5,000?

The short answer- Yes; but you can only recover damages of up to $5,000 plus statutory attorney’s fees ($250-$500) and court costs. A recent decision in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals Winkler v. Spaman Wholesale confirmed as much when it denied the defendant’s motion to vacate the default judgment for $5,000 because the demand in the complaint was for $8,000. The defendant’s attorney, while trying to get the default judgment set aside and the case reopened, argued that Small Claims court did not have jurisdiction because the amount of the suit was over $5,000.

The appellate court held, and rightly so, that Small Claims court does have the authority to address the issue, it simply lacks the authority to address or grant damages in excess of $5,000. This was an important clarification of the law concerning small claims court as often times there is a gap, especially for small businesses, between a case being small enough for small claims but large enough to warrant going to large claims court for. So, if you have a claim for $6,000-$8,000 it may be worth giving up the chance of recovering the full amount simply for the hassle and attorney’s fees that it will save.

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