Small Claims

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Small Claims court is a place for the speedy trial of lawsuits (complaints) based upon contract or tort (breach of a legal duty) seeking $10,000 or less. Filing and pre-trial procedures are simplified compared to other lawsuits. However, the rules of law and evidence that apply to other lawsuits also apply to Small Claims trials. The parties are not required to have attorneys (unless the plaintiff is a corporation) but may choose to have one.

Examples of Small Claims Cases

  1. Someone damages something you own and refuses to pay for your loss.
  2. Your landlord refuses to return your security deposit.
  3. Your tenant vacated in violation of a lease or leaves damages which cost money to repair.
  4. Someone owes you money for work you have done but refuses to pay you.
  5. Your newly repaired roof leaks and the responsible contractor refuses to repair it.

Important: Small Claims court can order a judgment only for money. It cannot require a person or business to perform a service, to stop a certain action, or to return property.


Rules, guides, and forms for Small Claims procedures can be found below and are also located in the Law Library on the first floor of the Administration Building:

  1. Small Claims Booklet* (Spanish Booklet (PDF))
  2. Supreme Court Rules 281-289
  3. The Uniform Rules of Practice of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit
  4. Small Claims Complaint | State of Illinois Office of the Courts

*The purpose of the Small Claims Guide is to explain the workings of Small Claims court in Lake County, Illinois. Because procedures differ from county to county, much of this information does not apply elsewhere. While certain sections may be directed primarily to the person filing the case (the plaintiff) or to the person being sued (the defendant), most of the information is relevant to both.


A trial in Small Claims court is speedy and inexpensive, yet it may be too complex for some people to handle on their own. The court will expect you to follow the same rules and procedures as a lawyer. While most parties in a Small Claims case do not have a lawyer representing them, some do. Consequently, you may find yourself facing a lawyer at trial. So, consider having a lawyer represent you.

If you want to hire a lawyer, you may contact the Lake County Bar Association by telephone at 847-244-3143 to obtain a list of attorneys by practice area and their contact information. If you do not have the money to afford your own lawyer, you may contact Prairie State Legal Services online or by telephone for an appointment.

The Illinois Supreme Court Rules provide that a CORPORATION may not appear as a plaintiff without an attorney, but may appear as a defendant through an officer, director, manager, or supervisor. Corporate officers should consult with their lawyers regarding interpretation of this rule.

Helpful Telephone Numbers

Phone Number
Law Library and Center for Self-Representation
Clerk of the Circuit Court - Small Claims Clerk
Lake County Bar Association
Prairie State Legal Services