Normally, the collection of debts can be prevented if the creditor (the person who loaned the money) waits too long after the debt is due to be repaid (known as exceeding the "statute of limitations") to collect the debt. You can review what the statute of limitations are in various states, and it does vary by state as well as by the type of debt, by reading the information here
Sometimes, however, if the person who owes the debt takes any action, whether verbal or, preferably, written, in which they re-affirm or otherwise declare an intention to repay a debt, even if the statute of limitations has expired, that may allow the creditor to file a court suit for repayment of the debt.
In general, whether or not a case can be file in small claims depends on the amount of the claim or damages being sought. Each state's small claims courts normally has a limit for the size of claims they will adjudicte. You can see what the amounts permitted in your state are by reading the information here - BUT, do verify if there have been any changes in the amounts permitted by calling your local small claims court. If the claim you have for $5,000.00 is under or at the limit for the small claims courts in your state, then you should be able to file the claim in your courts. Also, be aware that most states' courts now have "self help" centers that can assist persons who represent themselves with not only filing out or obtaining corporate paperwork, but also in arguing and structuring their cases.