The New Jersey court system has, for civil courts, three separate levels. The most basic and lowest level in the New Jersey court system is known as Small Claims. In Small Claims, you may sue a defendant or counterclaim against a plaintiff for up $3,000. Initially, in this type of court case, you must go to the county in which the defendant resides and file a claim through the court. You will fill out the appropriate forms and the court sends the notice to the defendant and gives you a court date. The defendant is not required to file an answer, but if they wish to do so, they might with a counterclaim. The court date occurs within 30 to 45 days from the filing of the lawsuit.
The next level for the New Jersey is known as the Special Civil Part Law Division. Claims in this court range up to $15,000 as a maximum. However, not counted within the cap is a claim for attorney’s fees and costs under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Presumptively, this would also apply to warranty claims as well. In this matter, as a defendant, you are required to file an answer as well as a counterclaim, so you are unable to sit back and do nothing and await a court date. In this action, discovery is also permitted under the court rules; however, not in depositions. If you want a deposition, you must make an application to the court to request a deposition of the adversary. Written discovery is permitted, such as interrogatories and demand for documents, and subpoenas are permitted to be issued. Offer of judgment may not be used in the Special Civil Part or the Law Division. Motion practice varies by county, but under the theory, you might file a motion for the defendant’s failure to provide discovery and if this is opposed, the court will list it for oral argument. However, please check with the specific county in which you have filed to check this procedure with the specific court.
The next level of court in the New Jersey court system is the Law Division. All claims might be filed in the Law Division, from $3,000 up to an unlimited amount. An answer must be filed, as well as any other pleading such as a counterclaim, affirmative defenses or third party claims. After a claim is filed, it will be provided an amount of time to do discovery, significantly longer than is permitted in the Special Civil Part. Discovery ranges from one year to one year-and-a-half for more complicated matters. Offer for judgments are permitted, and demand for documents, demand for interrogatories and subpoenas are permitted without court intervention. Again, the amount is unlimited and there is no minimum. Matters that may be filed in the Special Civil Part may be filed in the Law Division. Each individual courthouse has appropriate links through the New Jersey Courts Online, which I strongly recommend.