Debt Collection Attorney in Florida Courts

Q. We hear a lot about small claims.  Is there an advantage in filing in small claims court?

A. In Florida Court System you cannot choose to file in small claims court. Whether you file in Small Claims, County Civil, or Circuit Civil depends on the size of your case.   Small claims court filings are for cases with balances of $1.00 to $4999.99.  County Civil cases are for balances of $5,000.00 to $14,999.99.  Circuit court Cases are for balances $15,000.00 and over.  The balances are determined without interest and attorney fees.

As a practice note, you could chose to lower your claim amount to under $5000.00.  If you did the court would not have jurisdiction to award more than that.

Q. How is small claims court different than County or Circuit Civil Court?

A. The difference begins with how the cases start.  In Small Claims Court the Clerk of Court issues a “NOTICE TO APPEAR” with a Pre Trial Conference date set forth in the notice.   The defendant needs to be served with the “Notice to Appear”.   All parties must appear at the Pre Trial Conference.  If the Defendant is served and fails to appear we get a default.   If the defendant is not served with the notice we need to locate a better address, we have the clerk reissue the notice to appear and we start over.

At the pre-trial conference, the defendant will either admit or deny the debt.  Either way, in most counties, the judge or clerk will send us to mediation to attempt to resolve the matter.  For example, in Orange County (Orlando) and Pinellas County (St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida) we will be in mediation before we even see the judge.  Therefore, it’s always best for us to have settlement authority going into the pre-trial or at least a phone number and person to contact with our client.

With County Civil and Circuit Civil cases the clerk of court issues a 20 day summons.   The process server or sheriff must serve the summons on the defendant at which time the defendant is required to file a pleading (motion to dismiss or answer) with the court with a copy to our office.

Q. Can the client appear by phone at trial or mediation?

A. The general rule for Small Claims cases is yes, the client and other witnesses can appear by phone for both the mediation and trial.   As always there are some judges who will refuse to allow our client’s to appear by phone.

For County and Circuit Civil cases the general rule is no, however it will depend on the opposing party and judge’s wiliness to permit the witness to appear by phone.

As a practice note:  It is less effective for the client to attend a trail by phone as the judge may be less able to judge the credibility of the witness.  A judge once indicated that if all things being equal, (“he said; she said” issue) the person sitting before him and not the client on the phone will more likely win

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