|Small Claim Maximum||$5,000|
|Deadline to File||1, 3 or 10 Years|
|Filing Fees||Vary by court|
|Appeal Deadline||City Court: No Appeals Justice of the Peace Court: 15 Days|
Small Claims Court Basics in Louisiana
Small Claims Court is an informal court designed for minor cases limited to a maximum claim amount. The trial does not involve a jury. Instead, the plaintiff and defendant present their case to a judge, who makes a decision.
In Louisiana, there are two types of courts that handle small claims: City Court and Justice of the Peace Court (in rural areas). The small claims process varies by court, but the clerk of your local court can explain their local procedures.
Common suits filed by landlords include:
- Recovery of unpaid rent
- Damages that exceed the amount of the security deposit
- Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
- Early termination of a lease
Common suits filed by tenants include:
- Failure to return the security deposit correctly
- Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
- Overcharging for damages
How Long Does the Small Claims Court Process Take in Louisiana?
A typical small claims case in Louisiana takes two to three months, from the date of filing, but can be longer if there are problems serving the defendant, the trial is continued, or other delays occur.
How Much Can You Sue For in Small Claims Court in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $5,000, excluding penalties, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.
Some Small Claims Courts in Louisiana do not allow plaintiffs to claim statutory penalties (like double damages). If the tenant believes the landlord willfully failed to return the security deposit and wants to claim the extra penalty, the claim must be filed as a civil case, rather than a small claim.
To attempt to recover a higher amount, the suit must be filed as a civil case in City Court or Parish Court.
How Long Do You Have to File a Small Claims Case in Louisiana?
The time limit for filing a small claims case in Louisiana depends on the type of case filed:
- 1 Year: Property damage, security deposit claims, discrimination
- 3 Years: Collection of rent
- 10 Years: Breach of a lease agreement
Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in Louisiana?
Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. However, either party can be represented by an attorney if they so choose.
Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, small claims are filed in the parish where the defendant lives or does business. Claims regarding a security deposit can also be filed in the parish where the rental property is located.
To determine the correct court, use the clerks of court directory to contact your parish’s court clerk. They can help you determine if your area is served by a City Court or Justice of the Peace Court.
How to File a Small Claims Case in Louisiana
Step 1: Contact your local court clerk to obtain their forms for filing a small claims case. The forms required to file a small claims case vary by court. Typically, courts use a form called a ‘Statement of Claim’ or a ‘Complaint’ to start a small claim and there may be additional forms that need to be filed.
Step 2: File the forms with the court clerk according to their filing procedures. Check with the court clerk to determine how many copies are required. The filing procedures vary by court. Most courts allow filing in person, but your local court may allow or require electronic filing.
Step 3: Pay the filing fee.
How Much Does it Cost to File a Case in Small Claims Court in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, the filing fee for a small claims case varies by court. Contact your court clerk to determine the filing fee in your area.
For example, the fee to file a small claim in Baton Rouge City Court is $82.50, and the fee to file in New Orleans City Court is $116.50.
There are also fees for additional defendants and service on the defendant(s).
What if You Can’t Afford to File a Case?
You can still file a case if you cannot afford the fees by filing an In Forma Pauperis Affidavit.
Small Claims Court Process in Louisiana
After filing a small claims case in Louisiana, the court clerk will issue a Citation, which is served on the defendant.
Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you have filed the small claim, you will need to serve the defendant. The methods of service vary by court. Defendants are typically served by certified mail, sheriff, constable, or process server. Some court clerks handle service on the defendant with a fee.
Check with the court clerk to determine what methods of service are permitted.
Local courts in Louisiana have their own rules and procedures. These are the general steps in the small claims timeline in Louisiana, but your local court may have additional requirements, like pre-trial mediation or filing of a default judgment request. Check with your court clerk to understand the process specific to that court.
Step 2: Defendant’s Answer. Once the defendant has received the Citation, they must file an Answer by the court’s deadline.
Once the defendant files their response, the court will schedule a trial. If the defendant fails to respond, the judge may issue a default judgment.
Step 3: Gather evidence and witnesses. Gather all physical evidence you may have to support your case and ensure that any witnesses are available to attend the trial. For example, you may ask the apartment manager to serve as a witness to how clean you left the apartment after moving out.
You may need to subpoena a witness if you are unable to get them to attend voluntarily by filing and serving the defendant a subpoena. Check with your court clerk to obtain their subpoena form.
Step 4: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge will give you and the defendant an opportunity to provide your arguments before they decide to dismiss the case or issue a judgment.
If the defendant does not attend the trial, the judge will issue you a default judgment, but you may be required to explain the amounts claimed.
Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Louisiana
If you win the judgment in Louisiana, you may be paid the judgment within the allotted time period, or you may need to pursue additional actions to recover the debt.
In Louisiana, decisions made in the small claims division of City Court cannot be appealed by either party. If the judgment was issued in a Justice of the Peace Court, either party may appeal the decision within 15 days.
When you win a small claims case, the judge will determine a schedule for repayment and may establish an installment plan. In the best case, the debtor pays the judgment according to the payment deadline.
If the debtor is delinquent on their payment or refuses to pay, you can recover the debt by recording the judgment in the mortgage records of a parish or by requesting wage or bank garnishment in your local court.
You have 10 years to collect a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate based on the discount rate published annually in the Wall Street Journal, which is 6.5% for 2023.
- 1 LA Code Civ. Proc. Art. 4871
There shall be no trial by jury in any case in a parish court, city court, or justice of the peace court.Source Link
- 2 LA Rev Stat § 13:5202
A small claims division…shall have civil subject matter jurisdiction in cases where the amount in dispute does not exceed five thousand dollars, exclusive of interest, court costs, attorney fees, or penalties…Source Link
- 3 LA Code Civ. Art. 3492
Delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one year.Source Link
- 4 LA Code Civ. Art. 3494
The following actions are subject to a liberative prescription of three years…an action for the recovery of compensation for services rendered…Source Link
- 5 LA Code Civ. Art. 3499
Unless otherwise provided by legislation, a personal action is subject to a liberative prescription of ten years.Source Link
- 6 LA Rev Stat § 9:3252
An action for recovery of such damages may be brought in the parish of the lessor’s domicile or in the parish where the property is situated.Source Link
- 7 LA Code Civ. Proc. Art. 4904
…if the defendant fails to answer timely…a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff may be rendered.Source Link
- 8 LA Code Civ. Proc. Art. 4904
…if the defendant…fails to appear at the trial, and the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case by competent and admissible evidence, a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff may be rendered.Source Link
- 9 LA Rev Stat § 13:5209
A plaintiff who files a complaint in a small claims division shall be deemed to have waived his right to appeal…A defendant shall be deemed to have waived his right to appeal unless…he files a written motion seeking removal of the action to the ordinary civil docket of the court…Source Link
- 10 LA Code Civ. Proc. Art. 4925
The appellant from a judgment rendered by a justice of the peace…shall file suit for a trial de novo…within fifteen days from the date of the judgment or from the service of notice of judgment, when such notice is necessary.Source Link
- 11 LA Code Civ. Art. 3501
A money judgment rendered by a trial court of this state is prescribed by the lapse of ten years from its signing…Source Link
- 12 LA Rev Stat § 13:4202
The rate of judicial interest…shall be as follows…the rate shall be equal to the rate as published annually, as set forth below, by the commissioner of financial institutions.Source Link