When you're ready to file your small claims case, bring all the information and papers concerning your claim with you to the appropriate county.
The first step in filing a small claims lawsuit is obtaining and filling out a small claims petition. You can't file more than 20 small claims lawsuits during any calendar year.
Small Claims Petition
The clerk, at your request, will help you in preparing the small claims petition. This petition must be filed with the clerk to start the lawsuit. On the petition, you need to provide information in a clear and concise way.
The petition form will tell the other party why you're suing. The form requests:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of the party you're suing
- The amount you're claiming in the suit
- Reasons why the other party owes you money
At the time you file the petition, you must have the proper name and address of the party you're suing.
Where to File
The next step is to actually file your petition. Small claims cases should be filed with the clerk of the district court in the appropriate county. You should file your claim in the county where:
- You live, as long as the defendant is served there
- The defendant lives
- The defendant works, as long as he's served there
- The dispute or event occurred if the defendant resided in that county when the event occurred
If the plaintiff doesn't file the lawsuit in the right county, the defendant could request the court to move the trial to one of the appropriate counties. If you have any problem deciding which county is appropriate, contact the clerk's office for assistance.
At the time you file your petition, you'll need to pay your filing fees. The fees are dependent on the amount claimed in your lawsuit. The clerk of the court in your county can tell you the amount.
The costs for filing a small claims action include the filing fee as well as a service fee for summoning each party to court. If a final judgment is entered in your favor as a result of your lawsuit, these costs may be added to the total amount of your judgment.
Service of Process
Once the small claims petition has been completed and filed with the clerk of court, the defendant must receive a copy of the petition and a summons. A summons is an order that notifies the defendant of the lawsuit and directs him to answer the complaint. This is called service of process, and it gives the defendant adequate notice of being sued. In a Kansas small claims case, there are several way to serve the defendant:
- Certified mail
- Personal service by a sheriff or private process server
The sheriff's office will charge a fee to serve the forms. The small claims hearing will be cancelled if the defendant can't be found. Proof of service must be filed with the court prior to the hearing.
The defendant will receive instructions on how to respond to the claim. If he doesn't file an answer, the court may award a default judgment to you.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What's "service," how's it done and how much will it cost?
- Can an attorney assist me with filling out my claim forms?
- Should I file my claim in the county where I live, in the county where the claim took place or in the county the defendant lives?