From defective merchandise to credit card fraud, false advertising, or unauthorized membership renewals, there are many reasons you may consider filing a lawsuit against an internet company. But when it comes to suing an internet-based business, where should you start? Below, we discuss how to sue an internet company in small claims court and how an online small claims filing service can help streamline the process.
Doing business with an internet company can get tricky, so it is helpful to learn what to do if something went wrong.
How Can You Sue an Internet Company in Small Claims Court?
You can sue an online company just as you can sue a physical business for a face-to-face dispute you've had. However, there are a few extra wrinkles when suing an online company—most notably, where to file. Not every court has jurisdiction over every dispute, and filing in the "wrong" court could result in the dismissal of your claim.
Though we'll discuss more on jurisdiction below, these are the basic prerequisites for suing an online company in small claims court:
- You and the company entered into an agreement (written or not) to provide goods and/or services in exchange for money.
- The company breached this agreement (for example, by failing to provide the agreed-upon goods or services, for providing defective merchandise, by charging you too much, or by taking some other action)
- As a result of this breach, you suffered financial damages.
If you can answer "yes" to each of these criteria, you may have grounds to bring a legal claim against the online company.
What Kind of Damages Can You Sue for In Small Claims Court?
Small Claims court generally supports winning money in court. But some other courts allow you to ask the defendant to return property or recover damages in other ways. Since small claims court rules vary between states and even counties, it’s important to check what the local rules are.
Dispute makes filing small claims easy. Simply log into your dashboard on our website and select what state and courthouse you’d like to file in. Answer a few questions, and we’ll generate the forms for you. You no longer need to read through old courthouse websites or navigate tricky filing processes - file easily with Dispute.
How much can I sue for in small claims court?
Again, that depends on where you’re filing your case. Some courts have an limit of up to $25,000! Be sure to check the limitations of your state.
How do I submit evidence in small claims court?
Some courts allow you to attach evidence to your small claims filing. But in other courts, you should prepare to present your evidence in trial. Either way, gathering evidence is your responsibility. Check out our other in-depth guides on gathering evidence and submitting evidence to court to give yourself the best chance of winning in court.
Where Should You File Your Small Claims Lawsuit?
To sue someone in your local small claims court, you'll need to establish that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. "Jurisdiction" refers to the power to resolve a legal claim involving that defendant. If the online company is located in-state, you should be able to sue in a state court.
However, it is more complicated if the company is located in another state. To sue in your state, you'll have to establish that the person or business regularly conducts business over the internet with residents of your state. "Regularly doing business" can include, but isn't limited to:
- Advertising or soliciting business in your state
- Having a registered agent for service of process in your state
- Having any offices or employees located in your state
- Conducting direct sales over the internet
- Sending employees or agents to your state to conduct business
If you're able to answer "yes" to some of these questions, you may be able to sue an online business locally.
However, there is one exception. If, during business with the internet company, you signed or clicked "yes" on a "Terms and Conditions" agreement that governs where any lawsuit may be brought, you may be forced to adhere to these conditions. Some terms and conditions will require any disputes to be submitted to arbitration or filed in the online company's home state.
How to File a Small Claim
If you're able to sue the internet company locally, you may be able to find the forms and documents you need at your local small claims court. In general, you’ll need to do the following:
- Send a demand letter
- Fill out small claims paperwork
- Pay court fees
- Submit your paperwork to court, and wait for the court to approve it
And if you decide you want a court hearing:
- Serve the defendant
- Gather evidence
- Appear in court for your hearing
Although small claims proceedings are more informal than most civil court proceedings, they can still be tricky to navigate for those who don't have litigation experience.
Can You File Small Claims on the Internet?
Yes, absolutely! Some courthouses have tools on their website that make filing easy. But other courts use more traditional methods. One courthouse still uses carbon copies for small claims paperwork. Each courthouse is different, and it may take a while to research what your courthouse does.
Filing with Dispute makes it easy. You don’t have to worry about finding a PDF, searching for payment methods, or constantly checking your fax or mail for your paperwork. We take the hassle out of filing so you don’t need to worry. Manage your case easily on our dashboard and handle payments through our portal.
How Can I Win a Lawsuit Against a Company?
While the judge ultimately makes the call at trial, you can still do your part. This includes collecting evidence and making sure your case actually gets to trial. Paperwork can be rejected for many different reasons.