Alabama District Court Small Claims Actions: An Overview

Learn about filing a small claims case in Alabama District Court.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims dollar limit in Alabama Small Claims Court?

You can ask for up to $6,000 for a small claims action filed in Alabama District Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Alabama.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in Alabama Small Claims Court?

No. Evictions aren't heard as small claims in Alabama District Court. However, it's an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, such as property damage matters and breach of contract disputes.

Where should I file my small claims case in Alabama?

Alabama has many courthouses. You must choose the proper court location or "venue," otherwise, the defendant—the person or company you sue—will be able to ask the court to transfer or dismiss your action. In Alabama, you can file in the county or district where one of the following occurs:

  • where any defendant resides
  • where the injury or property damage occurred, or
  • if the defendant is a corporation, where the injury or property damage occurred, where the corporation's principal place of business is located, or where the plaintiff resides(if the defendant does business there.

Go to the Alabama Secretary of State business entity records webpage for company information. Also, be aware that you might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.

What's the deadline to file a case in small claims court in Alabama?

You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a claim. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, the Alabama statute of limitations is six years for oral and written contract cases, two years for personal injury matters, and six years for property damage cases. Other limitations periods exist, depending on the type of action. If you don't file within the proper period, you lose your right to sue.

Also, the statute of limitations can stop and restart depending on various circumstances, and figuring out when it expires can be challenging. For instance, if a minor is injured, the personal injury statute won't begin running until the child reaches 18 years of age. Learn more about calculating the statute of limitations.

Can an attorney represent a small claims claimant in Alabama Small Claims Court?

Yes. Individuals can have a lawyer present the claim before the judge or jury. Collection agencies must be represented by counsel.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Yes. The defendant must file a written answer within 14 days of service of the small claims action. You must file your answer and appear on the date in the court documents to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment.

Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.

Will I have a judge or jury trial in small claims court in Alabama?

A judge will decide your small claims case. Alabama's small claims court doesn't allow for jury trials.

Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal an Alabama small claims case?

Either side can appeal the decision. You'll have to file the appeal within 14 days from the date of the judgment or the denial of a post-trial motion. Finding the post-trial motion denial date should be simple—it will likely be the date of the decision. Determining the "date of judgment" could be a bit trickier so you'll want to check with the court clerk. You must comply with this and other rules or you'll lose your appeal rights. If you're confused about the process, talk with a local attorney.

Will the court collect my judgment for me?

No. You'll be responsible for all collection efforts. It's a good idea to determine whether you can collect before deciding whether to sue.

Where can I learn more about small claims court in Alabama?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the Legal Services of Alabama's small claims court webpage.

You can also view Alabama law online on the Georgetown Law website. (Ala. Code §§ 6-3-2; 6-3-7; 12-12-31; 12-12-70; 12-12-71; Alabama Small Claims Rules, Rules A to N; Alabama Small Claims Forms, 1 to 8.)

For detailed help with case filing, court strategy, and collecting a money judgment, see Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court by Attorney Cara O'Neill (Nolo).

Look out for Legal Changes. This overview doesn't provide all of the information needed to file a small claims case. Also, keep in mind that statutes can change, and checking them is always a good idea. How the courts interpret and apply the law can also change. These are just some of the reasons to consult an attorney if you have any questions about litigating your case or if you aren't comfortable independently verifying the law.