How Small are the “Small Claims” in General Sessions Court in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, you hear lots of talk of General Sessions Court, which is Tennessee’s version of small claims court. Of course, “small” is a relative term–General Sessions Courts in Tennessee have jurisdiction to hear civil cases with as much as $25,000.00 in controversy. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-15-501.

Trivia Time: In what three situations can a creditor obtain a judgment that exceeds the $25,000 jurisdictional limit in General Sessions Court? The Answer is after the jump.

Here are three relatively common situations in which a creditor can obtain a judgment greater than $25,000 in General Sessions Court.

1)  Amounts awarded on a judgment as attorneys’ fees, court costs, or discretionary costs are not included in computing the limit. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-15-501(d)(2).

2) Despite the $25,000 cap, the General Sessions Court has “unlimited original jurisdiction” in cases involving “forcible entry and detainer” (a.k.a. eviction lawsuits).  § 16-15-501(d)(1).

3)  Similarly, the General Sessions Court has “unlimited original jurisdiction” in cases involving “actions to recover personal property, in which the court shall have unlimited original jurisdiction, including jurisdiction to award an alternative money judgment.” § 16-15-501(d)(1).

Why is this important to know? Because General Sessions Court cases move fast (i.e. you can file suit, get your Defendant served, and have a trial in about 4 to 6 weeks), if you fall into a statutory exception to the cap, there’s a great time benefit to suing there, and you can obtain a really large collections moneytary judgment, assuming you start out as an eviction or personal property recovery lawsuit.

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5 thoughts on “How Small are the “Small Claims” in General Sessions Court in Tennessee?

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