There is usually no minimum amount to file a lawsuit, so you can technically sue for 20 dollars. However, it may not be a good idea.
What is the minimum amount to sue for in small claims court?
Most small claims courts have rules that you can file cases for up to a maximum amount. The maximum you can sue for in small claims court is usually between $3,000 to $10,000 depending on where you live.
There is usually no rule that there’s a specific minimum dollar amount to sue in small claims. Small claims court is supposed to be for the lowest dollar amount cases.
One thing to note is that you usually do have to have a claim for some amount of money to sue in small claims court. For example, if you want to sue to keep your neighbor from mowing his lawn at two in the morning, you’ll usually need to go to civil court. The reason for that lawsuit would usually be to get an injunction instead of asking the defendant to pay money.
If you’re wanting to sue someone because you feel that person did you wrong, you generally need to have a legal claim for why you’re entitled to have the defendant pay you money.
Why could it be a bad idea to sue for $20?
Just because you can sue for $20 doesn’t mean that you should. There are several reasons you may want to reconsider whether you want to file a small claims case for such a low amount.
To begin your case, you’ll usually need to pay a filing fee to the court clerk. Filing fees can range from around $50 to $200, depending on where you live.
You’ll also usually need to pay to serve the defendant. Sometimes you can use certified mail. Other places require you to pay a process server, and that can cost $50 to $100 or more.
The defendant may or may not have to pay your court costs if you win. Some places always award costs, and some never do. Some places leave it to the judge’s discretion based on how strong your case was or other factors.
This doesn’t even get into the cost of hiring a lawyer. You usually don’t need one in small claims court, and very few will take a $20 civil case. If you do want to spend $100+ per hour to get $20 back, you can probably find a lawyer who will take your money. Like court costs, you’re only entitled to have the defendant pay your legal fees in certain situations.
Chances of Winning
Small claims courts are usually very busy. Whether it’s right or wrong, it can be hard to get a judge to take you seriously if you’re only suing for $20.
In some cases, judges might be understanding. They might realize that you have a real problem and are filing a lawsuit because you don’t have any way to solve it.
In other cases, the judge could look at your case as a waste of the court’s time. The judge might look for any reason to dismiss your case or rule against you at trial.
When you file a small claims case, you usually need to go to court at least three times.
You typically have to file your case and pay the court fees, attend at least one court hearing, and then have a trial date. In many places, you may have to go to multiple hearings and try to resolve your case before you go to trial.
You might have to take off from work and pay for gas or other transportation. You generally won’t get reimbursed for those costs.
So before suing someone for $20, you really need to decide whether it’s worth it compared to the costs involved.
Is your case worth more than $20?
One thing you might want to ask a lawyer about is whether your case might be worth more money. In some types of cases, the law awards punitive damages in addition to your direct financial losses.
So if a company broke the law when it charged you a $20 fee or cost you $20, you might actually be entitled to $20 plus $500 in statutory damages. The law in question may also give you the right to receive court costs and attorney’s fees, even if that’s not the usual rule where you live.
You can sue for $20, but it may not be a good idea. You may also want to find out if your case is actually worth more than you realize.