Before you file a small claims suit, consider the importance of the matter in dispute and compare it to the time, effort and expense required to pursue your claim. You should also consider the probable chances of winning your lawsuit.
If at all possible, try to settle your dispute out of court. When a reasonable agreement can't be reached, a small claims complaint may be filed. The first step in filing a small claims action is obtaining and filling out the necessary forms.
Where to File
A plaintiff begins a small claims case by filing a complaint at the justice court clerk's office. The plaintiff must file the complaint in the justice court in which the defendant resides or operates a business.
A plaintiff can go to the justice court clerk's office in his township to fill out a complaint form. The plaintiff will be charged a fee to file the complaint, which varies depending on the amount of the claim.
The information required on the complaint includes:
- The name and address of the defendant
- The reason for filing the complaint
- The amount of money being disputed
Correct names and addresses are vital to your case because the court can't grant a judgment against a defendant who is improperly named in the complaint. Therefore, you must find out before you go to court the name and address of the person or business your claim is against.
Naming the Proper Party in Complaint
Make certain you name the correct person in your complaint. If you are suing an individual, simply locate the party's name and address. You may be able to obtain information from the Department of Motor Vehicles through either its Drivers License Division or the Registration Bureau.
Businesses often use fictitious names. You must get the real name. If the business is a corporation you must name it. Ask the Secretary of State's Office for the correct name of the corporation, its address, the name and address of its resident agent (the person who represents the business), and whether the company is in good standing. You may also find information on the Nevada Secretary of State Web site. Use the Internet - it's an easy and efficient way to access much of the information you'll need. If you are suing a business that isn't a corporation, call the business license department where the business is located.
Small Claim Documents
All documents should be typed or written clearly. The court requires one original and three copies of all documents be submitted for filing. All parties must prepare their own small claim documents; the court won't do it.
Service of Process
The plaintiff is responsible for proper service of the small claim complaint, meaning that the defendant received a copy of the complaint and was notified about the claim against him. The small claim complaint should be served on the defendant right away. If the defendant is not served, the case won't be heard. The return of service proof must be returned to justice court; it documents that the complaint was served. It is required that the proof of service be completed and returned to the court no less than ten working days prior to the small claim court date.
A defendant may be served using certified or registered mail with return receipt or personal service by a sheriff, constable or court-approved adult. When you file your complaint, the justice of the peace or clerk will determine the method of service to be made.
If the defendant, after being served, would like to make an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiff, the court can provide a stipulation/judgment form. This form must be completed, signed by both parties and filed with the court prior to the hearing.
Filing a Counter-Claim or Cross-Claim
A defendant who wishes to file a claim against the plaintiff (counterclaim) or a claim against a third party (cross-claim) must follow the same procedure that a plaintiff must follow for filing a claim.
When you file a complaint, you'll be given a hearing date and time, which is the date and time for you to present your case. You must be prepared to present all witnesses and evidence at your hearing. Generally you won't be able to present other evidence at any other time. Confirm with the process server that the other party was properly served.
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 that I set when I filed my complaint?