Before you file a small claims suit, consider the time, effort and expense required to assert your claim. The amount owed or dollar value of property may not exceed the maximum amount of $7,500.
To start a small claim, the plaintiff must file a complaint form, called a "Notice, Claim and Summons to Appear for Trial." This form is available in the office of the clerk or you can find it on the Colorado State Judicial Branch Web site. Click on the "Forms" tab and select "Small Claims" from the menu.
Court Personnel Assistance
The clerk of the court can assist a plaintiff or defendant with forms, operations, procedures, jurisdictional limits and functions of the small claims court. However, court personnel can't engage in the practice of law. The clerk can also advise parties of the availability of subpoenas to obtain witnesses and documents.
The following information is required on the form:
- Plaintiff's name, address and telephone number
- Defendant's name, address and telephone number
- Defendant's registered agent for service of the notice, if applicable
- Notice of trial date and time
- The amount of money being claimed or a description of the property to be recovered
- A brief description of why the plaintiff believes the defendant owes the amount of money or property claimed
After you have completed the complaint form, you need to take it to the courthouse and give it to the clerk of the small claims court. This process is called "filing." When you file the complaint, you will have to pay a filing fee. The filing cost is $31 for claims up to $500 and $55 for claims from $500.01 to $7,500. If the plaintiff wins, the magistrate may order the defendant to reimburse the plaintiff's court costs.
Where to File
You can file a lawsuit in the small claims court in the county in which, at the time of filing of the claim, any of the defendants reside, are regularly employed, have an office for the transaction of business or are a student at an institution of higher education. In an action to enforce restrictive covenants or arising from a security deposit dispute, the action may be brought in the county in which the subject real property is located.
Notice to Defendant
The defendant may be served with the complaint by a person who isn't involved in the case or not a family member of someone involved in the case, such as a sheriff or a private process server. The plaintiff has to pay a fee to have the defendant served. The complaint needs to be delivered to the defendant or the registered agent of the defendant.
Alternatively, the form can be mailed by certified mail by the clerk of the court. The plaintiff will have to pay the cost for certified mail at the time the complaint is filed. If the certified mail can't be delivered, the plaintiff may still have to get the sheriff or a process server to deliver the complaint.
The defendant must be served with the complaint at least 15 days before the trial date. If not, the trial date will probably have to be rescheduled. The plaintiff will get back a form that shows service was completed, including the date of service. This form must be filed with the court at or before trial.
At the time the small claims action is filed, the clerk will set the date and time of the trial. The trial date will not be less than 30 days from the date of issuance of the notice of claim.
The defendant's response form, which is found on the back of the complaint, is the defendant's opportunity to describe the facts that show why the defendant thinks the plaintiff's claim isn't valid. This is called the defense. The defendant can also file a counterclaim with the response.
A counterclaim is a claim by the defendant against the plaintiff that arises out of the same set of facts. A counterclaim must be brought in the case with the plaintiff or it is waived. A counterclaim can't exceed $7,500 or the defendant must be willing to accept a maximum of $7,500. Generally, the defendant's response and counterclaim are filed at the first scheduled trial date.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What is "service" and how is it done?
- Can an attorney assist me with filling out my claim forms?
- What should I do if I can't make the court date?