WHAT IS SMALL CLAIMS COURT?
The purpose of small claims court is to provide an informal procedure for people to settle small legal disagreements and collections without an attorney. There are no attorneys allowed, unless an attorney is personally suing someone else or someone else is suing an attorney. In that case, the other party is notified that they have the right to have an attorney also, or they can proceed without an attorney. Each person involved in the suit will have the opportunity to go to court and present their side of the case to the District Magistrate Judge. Each side is also allowed to subpoena witnesses and present exhibits to help prove their case. Then, from the evidence provided by each party, the Judge rules on the case.
Procedures vary from county to county in the state of Kansas. Please check with the Clerk of the District Court office if you are contemplating filing a small claims case in another county.
Even though you may obtain judgment in Small Claims Court, the Court is not responsible for collections of the same. However, the Clerk of the District Court office will provide written instructions and form packets to assist you in doing garnishments for wages and/or bank accounts or you may obtain the forms from the Kansas Judicial Council website at http://www.kansasjudicialcouncil.org. There is also additional information on Small Claims at http://www.kscourts.org/dstcts/smallclaims.htm
The job of the Clerk of the District Court personnel is to process cases. They cannot give you legal advice.
HOW DO I FILE A SMALL CLAIMS CASE?
If your claim meets all of the requirements above, you should go to the Clerk of the District Court office in the appropriate county and ask to file a small claims case. You will be given a Petition to complete stating your claim. The form may either be typed or hand written. If the form is hand written, please print so that the information is readable. Upon signing the Petition and paying the filing fee as required, a hearing date is scheduled. A Summons and Defendant's Claim will be issued to the sheriff for service on the defendant. There is a $15.00 sheriff's service of process fee. A separate check or money order made payable to the "County Sheriff's Office" must accompany your petition. Do not combine the sheriff's fee with a check or money order for the filing fee, which is to be made payable to "Clerk of District Court."
If you settle the case before the hearing date, notify the court at once so that the case can be dismissed.
YOUR DAY IN COURT
The proceedings in small claims court are conducted informally by the judge. Bring whatever evidence, documents, or other proof you need to support your case. You may subpoena witnesses and you or the judge may question them about the case. A $10.00 witness fee and mileage must be paid to subpoena a witness to insure a witness’ appearance in court. There is a $15.00 sheriff's service of process fee that must accompany the subpoena. For each witness being subpoenaed, a check or money order made payable to "County Sheriff's Office" must be provided by party wishing to subpoena witnesses. The defendant will also be allowed to present their side of the case to the judge. If the defendant has filed a counterclaim against you that will be heard at the same time. The judge may make a decision immediately after hearing both sides or he may continue the case to another date. If the defendant was served and does not show up for the hearing, the judge may declare the defendant to be in default and award judgment to the plaintiff.
WHO CAN BE SUED IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT?
Any person or business may sue any person(s) or business that they believe owes them money. You must file the case in the county where that person(s) or business resides or the county where the defendant can be served with a summons.
REQUIREMENTS TO FILE A SMALL CLAIMS COURT CASE:
Restrictions that apply to small claims cases:
Claims for money or property must be less than $4000.00 in value.
A person filing must be 18 years of age, or be represented by someone 18 or over. The person being sued must be 18 years of age.
There cannot be more than twenty (20) small claims cases filed by one individual or business in this court during any calendar year.
There are two different filing fees required to file or begin a proceeding in small claims court. The filing fee for a claim of up to and including $500.00 is $47.50. The filing fee for filing a claim from $500.01 to $4000.00 is $67.50. In addition to, but separate from the filing fee, there is a $15.00 Sheriff's Service Fee per address served. This check will need to be made payable to the appropriate sheriff's department that will serve the documents.
The person filing the case must fill out a form called a Petition. This form is provided by the Clerk of the District Court office.
The person being sued must be able to be located so they can be legally served or given an official summons (or notice to appear) in court. It is your responsibility to furnish the address to the Clerk's office.
COLLECTING YOUR MONEY OR PROPERTY
The Judgment Creditor is the person or business who has won the case. The Judgment Debtor is the loser of the case. A copy of the Journal Entry of Judgment is furnished to the Judgment Creditor and the Judgment Debtor. A form entitled "Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets" will be attached to copy of the Journal Entry of Judgment, which is given to the Judgment Creditor. If the judgment is not paid or taken care of within 15 days, the copy of the Journal Entry of Judgment with the attached Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets form is to be mailed by the Judgment Creditor to the Judgment Debtor by mail. The Judgment Creditor needs to obtain from the Post Office a certificate of mailing form (P.S. Form 3817). This form needs to be filed in the office of District Court to show the date that the forms were mailed to the Judgment Debtor. The Judgment Debtor has 30 days from the date of mailing to either pay the judgment or complete the form and return it to the Clerk of the District Court office. If they do not complete the form, at the request of the Judgment Creditor, the Judgment Debtor will be summoned back to court. This form is used to help collect the judgment by issuance of garnishments against wages or a bank account.
The Judgment Debtor (loser) has 10 days after judgment is entered to file an appeal in writing to get a new hearing from a different judge. The Clerk of the District Court does have a Notice of Appeal form that you may complete. The filing fee for a small claims appeal is $195.00. Someone appealing a small claims case or attempting to collect a judgment granted in a small claims case does have the right to hire an attorney to assist them.
WHAT IF YOU ARE BEING SUED IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT?
If you are being sued in small claims court and you owe the full amount of money or property as stated in the Petition, you may pay what you owe, and you will not have to appear in court. Be sure the court is notified in writing of such a settlement. If you have a claim against the plaintiff in connection with the same matter that their claim concerns, you may fill out a "Defendant's Claim" form that came with the summons. Return it as soon as possible to the court where the hearing is to be held and mail a copy to the person suing you.
If you do not settle the claim out of court, then you must appear in court at the time scheduled for trial or the judge may rule against you. Bring with you any documents, etc., that will support your side of the claim, and any witnesses who can speak on your behalf. You may also subpoena witnesses, for a fee.