In general, the following are the three court sections in New Jersey, where a creditor may file a lawsuit against the debtor, for money owed: Superior Court, Civil Division, Small Claim Section; Superior Court, Civil Division, Law Section; Superior Court, Civil Division, Special Civil Section.
A creditor may only sue a debtor for $3,000.00 or less, unless a tenant is suing a landlord for the return of the security deposit. In the event of a suit for the return of a security deposit, the jurisdictional limit is $5,000.00 or less. In the event that a debt is due to a creditor for non-payment on a credit card or a health care bill, the type of action is called a breach of contract. The claim must be filed where the defendant resides. If the defendant does not reside in New Jersey, the complaint must be filed in the county where the cause of action occurred. After the lawsuit (complaint) is filed with the court, a copy of the lawsuit is served upon the defendant. The court documents will indicate the date of the trial. The defendant may appear at the trial and defend the matter or ignore the lawsuit. If the defendant loses at trial or ignores the lawsuit, the judge will enter a judgment for the creditor in the appropriate amount.
Special Civil Section
In this section, a plaintiff is able to sue for an amount of $15,000.00 or less. If the creditor has an action against someone in the amount of $3,000.00, the individual may file a claim in the Special Civil Section or Small Claims Court. The location as to where the complaint is filed is the same as Small Claims Court. After the complaint is filed with the court, the complaint is served upon the defendant. The defendant must file a formal answer to the court within thirty five (35) days of receipt of the complaint. If the answer is not filed within in the 35-day period, the plaintiff may apply for a default judgment. In the event of a default judgment, the plaintiff must schedule a hearing to determine the amount of the judgment. The plaintiff may obtain a judgment by default or by winning at trial. The court charges $15.00 to file an answer to the complaint.
A creditor may sue a person in the Law Division for an amount in excess of $15,000.00 only. The Law Section is similar to the Special Civil Section, in that an answer must be filed with the court within thirty five (35) days of service of the plaintiff’s complaint. The cost to file an answer is $135.00. The allowed time period to file and respond to various matters is substantially longer than the amount permitted in the other sections. Again, a creditor or plaintiff may obtain a judgment against the defendant by default or by winning in court.
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