A small claims suit in Alaska is an expedited legal proceeding involving personal property or certain other claims with a jurisdictional limit of $10,000 or less. The rules and procedures are less formal than in regular district court, and you can obtain a judgment months earlier.
Although you may have an attorney in Alaska's small claims courts, they are rarely used because most claims involve simple issues and small amounts of money. Alaska law does require an attorney, however, if your suit involves an assigned claim, one where the person with the original claim, usually a debt, sold or assigned it to you for collection.
Who Can Sue in Small Claims Court?
You must be 18 years of age to sue in small claims court, though a parent or guardian may bring a suit on your behalf if you are under 18.
What Types of Cases May be Brought?
Nearly any case can be brought in small claims court in Alaska, except one determining title to real property or for foreclosure. You may not seek equitable or injunctive relief, which is an order that either requires someone to perform an act or to not perform one because it may cause you financial or physical harm. You cannot use the small claims court system for evictions or to sue the state of Alaska or the federal government.
Small claims court does have jurisdiction over such claims as recovery of personal property, money owed for a debt, or recovery of compensation for property damage, or minor personal injury claims. Landlords may also sue tenants for overdue rent.
In Which Jurisdiction Do I File My Claim?
You are required to file your suit in the county where the defendant lives or works or where the act that led to the suit occurred. If you are suing a business, you can file in any county where it does or solicits business.
What Does a Small Claims Court Case Cost?
In Alaska, the filing fee in 2013 for a claim valued at $2500 or less is $40, while claims from $2501 to $10,000 are $75. There is a fee of $4 payable to the court for certified mailing of your complaint to the defendant. The fees are considerably more if you use a process server or if the defendant lives out of state. Your complaint should request reimbursement for court costs, including filing fees and service fees should you prevail.
What Are the Steps to Filing a Complaint?
You can obtain a complaint form either online or from the district court's office in the jurisdiction where you intend to file your claim. The forms are self-explanatory, but you must be sure to properly name the defendant and to note the defendant's correct address. A failure to properly name a defendant may prevent you from collecting on a judgment against that individual or entity.
Also, be sure to name a business in its proper legal form, and to name an individual separately. For example, a corporation and an individual must be named separately and each must be served with a separate summons and complaint.
How to Collect Your Money
If you prevail either at trial, or by a default judgment if the defendant does not show up, immediately demand that the judgment debtor pay you in full or by installment payments. If the debtor refuses, you can request the Alaska district court to issue a Writ of Execution to be served on the individual's bank or employer so the amount owed will be deducted from earnings or accounts and forwarded to you.
Consult a Small Claims Court Attorney
Small claims laws differ among the states. To determine the viability of your claim or if it is appropriate for small claims court, consult an Alaska attorney.