Overview Small Claims E-File

1. Small Claims: The small claims process is an inexpensive, quick, and informal way to resolve civil disputes up to $3,500, plus court costs. You must sue for a monetary amount. You cannot sue the defendant related to an item, for example a boat or a dog. Be aware that there is no right to appeal a small claims judgment. If you want to reserve your right to appeal you must file your case in the civil division.

2. Legal Advice: Court staff is not allowed to provide legal advice. You must follow the Arizona Revised Statutes and Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases that apply in your lawsuit. The statutes and rules are available in many public libraries and at the courthouse. The statutes are also online at the Arizona State Legislature, and the rules are online at the Arizona Judicial Branch Court Rules. For legal advice, you may contact Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc. or Pima County Bar Association.

3. Parties: Persons in a lawsuit are called “parties.” There is a “plaintiff” and a “defendant. A “plaintiff” is someone who files a lawsuit against a “defendant”.

4. Complaint and Service: When filing your law suit you must properly name the party(s). See examples on page 3. The complaint must briefly state the factual basis for the claim. You must serve the complaint, summons and a copy of the “Notice to Defendant(s) within 45 calendar days or your case may be dismissed. You may serve the defendant by certified mail, a constable or private process server. Proof of service must be filed with the court.

5. Filing Fee: The cost of filing a small claims complaint is $55.00. You will be required to pay the filing fee prior to submitting your case to the court. If you cannot afford the filing fee you may apply for a Fee Waiver or Deferral at the court. You will not be able to file your case on-line if you are unable to pay the fee.

6. Representation: Individuals represent themselves in a small claims lawsuit. There are usually no attorneys unless both parties stipulate. One spouse may represent both spouses. A full-time corporate officer or authorized employee may represent a partnership; an active member or an authorized full-time employee may represent an association; and any other organization may be represented by one of its active members or authorized full-time employees.

7. Transfer to Civil Division: Either party may request a transfer of the lawsuit from the Small Claims Division to the regular Civil Division of the Justice Court up to 10 days prior to the hearing. A transfer will allow:

(1) Either party to have an attorney;
(2) The defendant to file a counterclaim for more than $3,500;
(3) Either party to file motions that are not permitted in small claims lawsuits;
(4) Parties to have a jury trial; and
(5) A party to have the right to appeal.

8. Motions: There are only two motions allowed in Small Claims: Motion for Change of Venue and Motion to Vacate Judgment. A response to the motion, if filed, must be submitted within ten (10) days after the motion is served.

9. Answer: The defendant must file a written answer within twenty (20) calendar days from the date they are served with the summons and complaint, and mail a copy to you. If the defendant fails to answer the complaint timely you must initiate default proceedings in accordance with Rule 21(b), Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure.

10. Counterclaim: The defendant may file a counterclaim asserting that you owe something. The counterclaim must be filed within 20 days of service of the summons, complaint and notice. The amount of the counterclaim cannot exceed $3,500.

11. Counterclaim Reply: The plaintiff has 20 calendar days from receipt to file a reply to the counterclaim with the court and mail a copy to the defendant.

12. Hearing: The court will set a 30-minute hearing within 60 days from the date the answer is filed. A hearing officer who has received specialized training will conduct the hearing. Both parties must appear at all scheduled hearings and provide supporting evidence for their claims and defenses. If you fail to appear at a hearing, the court may enter a judgment against you.

13. Continuance: Either party may request a continuance for good cause. If you no longer reside in the area or attending court would result in a financial hardship you may request a telephonic hearing. However, you may be at a disadvantage since all evidence must be submitted to the court before the hearing.

14. Dismissal: If the matter settles prior to the hearing date, file a notice of dismissal with the court. If it settles after the defendant has filed an answer, both parties must sign and submit a Stipulated Dismissal form with the court.

15. Default Judgment: If you fail to file an answer within the specified time a default judgment may be filed. You must still provide evidence to support your claim

16. Change of Address: You must keep the court informed of your current address and telephone number until the lawsuit is over.

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