NAVIGATING SMALL CLAIMS COURT

NAVIGATING THE LEGAL SYSTEM ON YOUR OWN IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT

Small claims court can be useful when the amount in controversy is $7,500 or less. It is a quick process that avoids attorney’s fees and the delays of typical litigation. There are some excellent self-help resources at the websites below if you decide to embark on the process or if you find yourself involuntarily involved.

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http://www.courts.state.co.us/Self_Help/Local_Small_Claims.cfm

Some of the important steps and rules of the small claims court are as follows:

1. Only certain actions can be filed in small claims court, so first make sure you have a case that is allowed to be heard in small claims court. You can see a list of the correct types of cases at Colorado Revised Statute §13-6-403 or at the self-help website.

2. There is a limit for how much money you can sue for in small claims court. Your amount has to be $7,500 or less, which includes interest.

3. Your trial will be before a Judge or Magistrate. There are no jury trials in small claims court.

4. You will sue in the county in which any of the defendants resides, is regularly employed, or is a student at a University. In an action involving real property, such as a landlord-tenant dispute, the action may be brought in the county in which the subject real property is located.

5. You can print the forms off of the self-help website above and file them in the county that you choose. If you are the Plaintiff, you will need to file the Notice, Claim and Summons to Appear for Trial. You will also need to have those papers served on the Defendant(s) and file an Affidaivit of Service. If you are the Defendant, you need to appear to the named court on the day listed on your summons. Failure to appear could result in a default judgment against you.

6. Service can be obtained by a Sheriff’s Department or a private process server. You must have the defendant(s) served personally. You can recover your costs of service in a final judgment against the Defendant(s). You can also recover the filing fee as a cost. The filing fee depends on the amount of your claim. If you are the defendant and you win at trial or you win a counterclaim, you can recover your costs.

7. If you obtain a judgment, the court will not help you collect that judgment. If you live near Jefferson County, there is a collection clinic taught at the courthouse every first Wednesday of the month by Arnold & Arnold, LLP.

Kelley G. Shirk, Esq.

Pro Bono Achievement 2011 Pro Bono Achievement 2012