Small Claims – If you like DIY, this is the Court for you!
Small Claims Court is aptly named- the current limit on the amount that you can recover from a Small Claims action is $5,500. If you are owed a little more, you can choose to reduce your claim to $5,500 to take advantage of this simple and inexpensive process.
Attorneys cannot file actions in Small Claims Court, and we cannot represent you in Small Claims Court once you’ve filed the action. But if you like DIY, and don’t fear the risk of a paper cut, you can do this!
The person or entity that files the claim is the “plaintiff.” The person that you make the claim against is the “defendant.” To get the ball rolling, get an Affidavit and Claim form from the clerk of the district court or click here. The instructions are with the form and are easy to follow.
When you file the completed Affidavit and Claim, you will need to pay a filing fee to the clerk. The amount of the filing fee varies based upon the amount of your claim, up to $65.
Be sure to have the correct name and address of the defendant, so that the court clerk can notify the defendant. Once notified, the defendant can “remove” the case from Small Claims to the general District Court docket. If this happens, an attorney can handle the case for you. If you filed the claim for a corporation or LLC, and it is removed, you will need an attorney to handle the action in District Court. If the defendant owed you more than $5,500, you can amend your claim, if it is removed to the general civil docket, to seek more than $5,500.
If the case stays in Small Claims, you and the defendant waive the right to have an attorney and waive the right for a trial by jury. However, you will need to go to court. You will get notices of when to appear in court and what to do. READ EVERYTHING carefully and call the clerk if you have questions. YOU MUST APPEAR according to every notice. If you filed the claim for a corporation or LLC, an officer or full-time salaried employee with knowledge of the facts will need to appear in court.
Like any other dispute decided in court, you, the plaintiff, have the burden of proving the basis for your claim and how much is owed. Although not as dramatic as anything you’ve seen on TV, ideal “proofs” are the same: documents (yes, that includes email), photos, and witnesses.
If you win your case, you will get a money judgment against the defendant. If the defendant won’t pay the judgment, contact me - you can use an attorney to issue garnishments to collect the debt.