South Carolina Small Claims in Magistrates Court: An Overview

Learn about filing small claims cases in South Carolina Magistrates Court.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims dollar limit in South Carolina Magistrates Court?

You can ask for up to $7,500 in a small claims action in South Carolina Magistrates Court—the court that handles small claims matters in South Carolina.

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

Evictions are heard in South Carolina Magistrates Court. It's also an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, too, such as property damage cases and breach of contract disputes.

Which South Carolina Magistrates Court should I file my small claims action in?

South Carolina has many Magistrates Courts. 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 South Carolina, you can file in the county where:

  • at least one defendant resides
  • the most substantial part of the cause of action arose. the transaction or injury occurred, or
  • the obligation was to be performed, or
  • if the defendant is a company, where the business has its principal place of business.

You might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.

When must I file a case in small claims court in South Carolina?

You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, you'll have three years for injury, property damage, and contract cases. If you don't file within this period, you lose your right to sue.

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 South Carolina Magistrates Court?

Lawyers can appear on behalf of small claims plaintiffs or claimants.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

No. A defendant doesn't need to file a response to the complaint to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment. Instead, the defendant can show up to the hearing and put forth a defense. Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.

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

A judge will hear your case at the Magistrates Court small claims hearing unless you ask for a jury trial. You'll have to make the request at least five days before the trial date, and you'll likely have to deposit additional fees to cover jury costs. Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal a South Carolina Magistrates Court small claims case?

Yes. South Carolina law allows either party to file an appeal within 30 days after delivery of the written notice of judgment to the party or the party's attorney. You must comply with this and other rules, so be sure to do your research and count the dates accurately.

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 South Carolina?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try South Carolina Judicial Department's FAQs on Magistrate Court. You can also view South Carolina law online on the South Carolina Legislature website. (S.C. Code Ann.) §§ 15-3-510 et. seq.; 15-7-30; 18-7-10 to 18-7-30; and 22-3-10 to 22-3-320.)

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.

Updated February 6, 2020