Small claims court offers ordinary people the chance to resolve small disputes at a low cost and without a lot of complication. With a little education, you can represent yourself from start to finish in small claims court. Any individual or business may use small claims court, if the problem can be settled for 10,000 or less, and if the court has jurisdiction over the matter. Examples of cases which are appropriate for filing in the small claims court include:
- Breach of a written or oral contract.
- Return of money used as a down payment.
- Property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident.
- Damage to or loss of property.
- Consumer complaints for defective merchandise or faulty workmanship.
- Payment for work performed.
- Claims based on bad checks.
- Claims for back rent.
- Return of a tenant's security deposit.
All these cases represent problems that need to be resolved, but may not be significant enough to retain an attorney or to bear the expense of a full-fledged court case. The Small Claims Court offers a place for persons with such grievances to solve their own problems. Small Claims actions are governed by the Utah Code and the Rules of Small Claims Procedure. The Small Claims Court is designated to settle monetary legal issues and problems arising from contractual, service disputes and other claims. The current maximum amount you may sue for in a small claims action is $10,000. Small Claims court is less formal and you do not need an attorney to represent you. A small claims court allows an individual or business to be compensated by a party who has not performed according to an agreement or who had committed some wrongdoing.
How to File and Prepare for Court
1) Determine where to file. Before you can bring a suit in Small Claims Court, it must be determined that the court has jurisdiction over your type of legal problem, and that it has jurisdiction over the party you are suing. A case must be filed where the defendant resides or the claim arose (where the events happened). If there is no municipal or county justice court, file the case in the district court. Cache County is the only county that does not have a county justice court, so filing in district court should occur only in cases from unincorporated Cache County. All required forms needed to file a small claims can be found at: http://www.utcourts.gov/howto/smallclaims/
2) Utah Rule of Small Claims Procedure 3 governs how to serve a small claims Affidavit and Summons. After the court clerk has scheduled a trial, the Affidavit and Summons must be served on the defendant by one of the following methods at least 30 days before the trial date:
a) Mail a copy of the Affidavit and Summons to the defendant by any method that requires the defendant to acknowledge receipt with a signature. (Examples are registered or certified mail with return receipt signed by addressee only or a commercial courier service that will return a receipt signed by the addressee only.) The date of service is the date the defendant signs the receipt. Note that this method of service is effective only if the defendant is willing to sign the receipt. If not, the plaintiff must deliver the Affidavit and Summons to a professional process server under (b). ---OR---
b) Deliver the Affidavit and summons to one of the officials authorized by Utah Code Section 78B-8-302 Subsections (2) or (3), who will serve it on the defendant and file a Proof of Service with the court. The Cache County Sheriff’s Office Civil Unit is able to assist you with your service.
3) It is suggested that you observe a session in the Small Claims Court before your trial date. By doing so, you will be more at ease at your trial and will present a more relaxed and calm evaluation of your case. You will also become more familiar with the procedures of the Court. Small Claims Court is held every Monday morning at the Logan City Justice Court, located at 446 North 100 West, starting at 9:00 am.
4) Compile pertinent information that applies to your case. This information may include canceled checks, purchase orders, written contracts and other evidence.
5) Bring a disinterested party. If your claim deals with the adequacy of a service, or workmanship, or some other issue where the opinion of a disinterested party who is knowledgeable and or is an expert about the subject may be available, he/she should appear in person at the trial on your behalf.
6) Tell your story. When you get to court and it is your turn to speak, simply state what your claim is. The plaintiff (the person who filed the claim) will tell his/her side of the story to the judge and present any witnesses or documents to support the claim. The defendant (the person the claim is filed against) will do the same.
7) A “Small Claims Basics” class is available on Utah State Courts' YouTube channel or on DVD. Topics include the small claims process, Rules of Small Claims Procedure, small claims forms, and an overview of appealing a small claims case. The instructor is Tim Shea.