Wisconsin Small Claims Court Limit Increases by $5,000
$10,000 Limit Applies to Most Small Claims Cases in WI as of 7/1/11
The State of Wisconsin increased the jurisdictional limit amount of small claims actions from $5,000 (or less) to $10,000 (or less) effective July 1, 2011. Large clams cases are now for any claim greater than $10,000. This means if you are suing for more than $10,000, you need to file a large claim case. The State of Wisconsin made this change to make it easier and less expensive for creditors and debt collectors to file and process their claims.
Filing fees fluctuate and vary depending on the county. When the statute was changed, the cost of filing a small claims case was $94.50 ($99.00 in Milwaukee Co.) and a large claims was $265.50 ($269.00 in Milwaukee Co.), those filing claims between $5,000 and $10,000 saw a significant cost savings both on the filing itself and the cost of lawyer fees.
The vast majority of small claims cases are debt collection actions, although there are a few other types of case. Eviction actions are always considered small claims cases; there is no dollar limit for the amount claimed. This means your eviction will be a small claims even if the damages claimed are for more than $10,000.
Increased Claims Limit Reduces Face to Face Process Serving
On the flip side, this change resulted in fewer papers in the hands of process servers. All large claims require personal service by a process server but with the increase in the limit to $10,000, many papers will no longer need to be served personally. The majority of the counties in Wisconsin allow for mail service via the Clerk of Courts office on small claims cases, so creditors with cases totaling $5,000-$10,000 will no longer need process servers’ personal attempts. Personal service will still be required for all small claim cases in a handful of counties in southeastern Wisconsin, but on a whole this limit change adversely affect the process service industry in Wisconsin.
More Reliance on Service by Mail May Result in Fewer Defendants Being Served
Changing the claims limit from $5,000 to $10,000 means many people in Wisconsin will no longer have their summons and complaint hand delivered by a process server. This heavy reliance on service by mail could limit defendants’ ability to respond to lawsuits. In part, this is because individuals can easily overlook mail they are not expecting and discard the summons by accident. It’s much harder to ignore a hand-delivered summons from a process server.
Additionally, a professional process server will go above and beyond trying to find a defendant who does not live at the address listed on the case. Especially with eviction cases where the defendant has already moved or extremely old debts, the first address may not be correct anymore and there may not be a forwarding order on file with the Post Office. This could result in more defendants not being served personally or even by mail.
The state’s Joint Finance Committee inserted this provision into the budget Governor Walker signed in a ceremony in Green Bay on June 26, 2011. It is noted that the increase in the limit does not apply to third-party complaints, personal injury claims, or tort claims. In these situations, the $5,000 jurisdictional amounts remain in effect.