Missouri Circuit Court, Small Claims Division: An Overview

Learn about filing a claim in the small claims division of Missouri Circuit Court.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims dollar limit in Missouri Circuit Court?

You can ask for up to $5,000 in the small claims division in Missouri Circuit Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Missouri.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in a Missouri small claims court?

The small claims division of the Missouri Circuit Court doesn't hear evictions. 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.

Which Missouri Circuit Court should I file my small claims action in?

Missouri has many circuit courts and 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 Missouri, you can file in the following counties:

  • where at least one defendant resides
  • where one plaintiff resides and at least one defendant can be found
  • where transaction or injury occurred, or
  • if the defendant is a business, where the company or registered agent is located, or where the transaction or injury occurred.

Go to Missouri's business entity search webpage for company information. 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 Missouri?

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 Missouri statute of limitations periods is five years for most contract, injury, and property damage cases (although some contract cases have a ten-year statute of limitations). 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 Missouri Circuit Court?

Yes. Individuals can have a lawyer present the claim before the judge.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Written responses are allowed but not required. However, a defendant must file a counterclaim within ten days of receiving notice of the small claims action. You should check with your court to determine if there is anything you must do 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 Missouri?

Jury trials aren't allowed so a judge will hear your small claims hearing. Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal a Missouri Circuit Court small claims case?

Yes. Missouri law allows either party to file an appeal within ten days of the issuance of the decision. This should be the date on the decision itself, not the date it's received. In many small claims courts, the clerk sends a notification of the decision or judgment by mail, but the procedure used by your court could be different. You must comply with this and other rules, so be sure to do your research and count the dates accurately, or 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 Missouri?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the Missouri judicial branch webpage. You can also view Missouri law online on the Missouri Revisor of Statutes webpage. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 482.300 to 482.365; Missouri Supreme Court Rules of the Small Claims Division of Circuit Court, Rule 140.01 to 152.)

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.