Tennessee Court Records
What are Tennessee Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?
In Tennessee, small claims cases are civil actions concerning disputes that involve monetary claims of $25,000 or less. Class action lawsuits in the state occur when the complaints of many aggrieved plaintiffs concerning the same matters are brought together into a single lawsuit. Different courts of the Tennessee Judicial Branch handle small claims cases and class action lawsuits. While the General Sessions Court has jurisdiction over small claims action, the Circuit Court hears class action lawsuits.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Tennessee?
A class-action lawsuit in Tennessee is a civil case involving many persons coming together to file similar complaints under the same suit, with representative plaintiffs. Class-action lawsuits typically provide a way for many individuals with the same claim to file a single petition at the Circuit Court rather than filing the case individually. Rule 23 of the state’s Rules of Civil Procedures contains the regulations that govern a class-action suit. Under Rule 23.01, the requirements of a class action are:
- A large number of plaintiffs in the same class
- The facts of the class action and questions of law are common factors to the plaintiffs
- The defenses and claims of both the representative plaintiffs and the individuals in the class are similar
- The representative plaintiff will effectively represent the interests of the other plaintiffs involved in the class-action lawsuit
How do I File a Claim in a Tennessee Small Claims Court?
Interested parties can file a small claims action in Tennessee if the monetary damages involved does not exceed $25,000. However, the state has a dollar limit for small claims courts, depending on the county’s population. Typically, the court awards a maximum amount of $15,000 in a county that has below 700,000 occupants. Claimants are to file a small claims action at the General Sessions Courts in the county that the defendant resides or the cause of action occurred. Claimants can visit the clerk’s office and obtain a Statement of Claim form and a
Civil Warrant Form. The claimant fills the forms with the details of the claims and parties involved, respectively. Upon completion, the forms and other relevant documents are filed with the Clerk of Court. Filing charges may apply and vary in different counties. The defendant receives a copy of the filing documents through service via mail or by the county’s Sheriff’s Office. A court date is assigned for the case hearing, and a judge presides over the case and gives a verdict upon the conclusion of the litigation process. Interested persons can refer to the General Sessions Court Guidelines for information on the court’s procedures.
Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?
Parties involved in a Tennessee small claims action can hire a lawyer specialized in the field of the case. Lawyers can assist in filing a small claims action and represent litigants in court proceedings. However, litigants can file a small claims action without an attorney. The state court’s website provides a self-help page that contains useful resources.
How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Tennessee?
A class-action lawsuit in Tennessee commences when a representative plaintiff files a complaint against a person or an entity. The suit is usually on behalf of themselves and members of their class-action group. Upon the filing of the class-action complaint, a judge must grant a class certification before legal actions can officially commence in court. Typically, there are prerequisites to a class action that plaintiffs must satisfy to ensure the class certification. If the conditions are not met by them, the judge may not approve the action filing. Amongst these requirements is that the class must be large enough, and members must have suffered the same injury. The interests of the representative plaintiffs must also match with that of the class members.
Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?
A class-action lawsuit and a single party suit both have merits. If numerous aggrieved persons plan to file a complaint against the same individual or business, a class action suit is better. The litigation of a class action suit is much cheaper because the plaintiffs use the same attorneys, and court charges apply to only one single case. Class actions also result in faster settlements of all the plaintiffs, compared to if they filed their complaints individually. However, members of the class may have no control over how the lawsuit is handled, unlike in single party suits. The interest of the representatives of a class-action suit may be slightly different from other members of the class. Typically, single party suits are well fitted for matters peculiar to an individual, while a class action will favor a group of persons with the same legal grievances against the same party.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the document or person involved
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.
What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Tennessee?
Generally, the type of cases heard by small claims courts in Tennessee are civil matters involving monetary settlements less than $25,000. The General Sessions Courts have original jurisdiction over such matters. Cases that are under its jurisdiction include:
- Violation of municipal ordinances
- Preliminary hearings in misdemeanor and felony trials where the defendants waive the jury rights
- Failure to fulfill a service-based contractual obligation
- Eviction matters between a landlord and tenant
- Repayment of loans
- Personal injury matters and property damages