Texas Small Claims Court: An Overview

From maximum dollar limits to statutes of limitations, learn the basics about small claims court in Texas.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims court limit in Texas Justice Court?

Currently, you can ask for up to $20,000 in a small claims action in Texas Justice Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Texas.

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

Yes, Texas Justice Court is the right place to bring an eviction case (see Rules 500-507 and 510 of Part V of the Rules of Civil Procedure). It's 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 Texas Justice Court should I file my small claims action in?

Texas has many Justice 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 Texas, you can always file in the precinct located in the county where the defendant lives, but you might have more options. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.

When must I file a case in small claims court in Texas?

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 four years for written and oral contracts and two years for injury and property damage claims. 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 Texas Justice Court?

Yes. Lawyers can appear on behalf of small claims plaintiffs.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Yes. In Texas, the defendant must file a written answer with the court and serve a copy on the plaintiff to prevent the plaintiff from receiving an automatic default judgment. The answer is due by the end of the 14th day after service of the small claims paperwork.

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

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

Most people have their court heard by a judge called a justice of the peace. However, either party can demand a jury trial by filing a request no later than 14 days before the trial date. You'll have to pay additional fees to help defray the costs of the jury.

Can I appeal a Texas Justice Court case?

Yes. Either side can file an appeal within 21 days after the judgment is signed or after a motion for a new trial is denied. Be sure to start counting from the correct date so that you don't miss the filing deadline.

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 Texas?

Most courts post filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try theTexas Law Library's Small Claims website or TexasLawHelp.org's Small Claims webpage. You can also view Texas statutes and court rules online. 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 4, 2020