In Nevada, small claims court is designed to resolve disputes involving lawsuits for money damages up to $5,000. Court procedures are informal and simple enough for a person to file a complaint or to answer a claim without a lawyer. The purpose of small claims court is to resolve disputes promptly. It is held in local justice courts by a justice of the peace.
The person or business that files a claim to sue another is called the plaintiff. The person or business that is sued is called the defendant.
Individuals or Businesses May Sue
An individual who is at least 18 years old or a business can file a claim in small claims court.
Small claims court can't grant any relief other than money damages. For example, the justice of the peace can't order someone to return property or make rulings regarding who owns land.
Small claims court can't hear disputes involving more than $5,000. If the amount you are asking for is over $5,000, you can't file in small claims court. If you want to sue for more than $5,000, you need to file your claim as a civil action.
The claim must be for money only. You can't divide a claim and file two separate actions. You may waive any amount over $5,000.
Where to Sue
The lawsuit should be filed either where the defendant resides or where the defendant does business. If the lawsuit is against a corporation, it should be filed either where the corporation resides or where the corporation keeps an office.
Either side may file an appeal for a review of the law, which means the reviewing court will look at just the record. There won't be a new trial. An appeal must be made to the district court within five days after a judgment is made.
Cases Suitable for Small Claims Court
Many different kinds of cases go to small claims court. Some of the most common cases involve:
- Car accidents
- Property damage
- Landlord/tenant disputes
Some examples of specific types of disputes that might be resolved in small claims court are when:
- A landlord refuses to return your security deposit
- Someone damages your car but refuses to pay for its repair
- A store refuses to fix or replace a new product you purchased
- Your tenant caused damage to rental property greater than the amount of the security deposit but refuses to pay
- You were defrauded in the purchase of a car and want to return the car and recover your down payment
- You loaned money to a friend but he won't repay the loan
Statute of Limitations
Under the law, there is a limit on how long you have to bring a lawsuit. This time period is called the "statute of limitations." The law won't allow you to sue if you wait too long.
You have a minimum of two years and a maximum of six years to file your lawsuit depending upon the type of claim. To determine what type of claim you have, you must either seek legal advice or research it through the Nevada Revised Statutes. The Nevada Revised Statutes are available to the public at the Washoe County Law Library or you may view them on the Nevada Legislature Web site.
Self-Representation or Attorney
Because proceedings in small claims cases are simplified, lawyers are generally not necessary; however, they are allowed to participate in small claims court. If you're represented by an attorney in small claims court, you can't collect attorney's fees from your opponent.
The plaintiff must file a claim, notify the defendant of the claim, prove in court that the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff and also prove the amount of the indebtedness.
The defendant in a small claims lawsuit receives notice either by certified mail or is served in person at least ten days before the trial date. The notice directs the defendant to appear in small claims court to answer the claim. The defendant in any court action is presumed to be free of responsibility in such action until the plaintiff proves the facts.
A defendant may file a counterclaim, which is a statement alleging other facts to establish a claim by the defendant against the plaintiff. The defendant's counterclaim may also demand money from the plaintiff but may not exceed $5,000.
Questions for Your Attorney
- If my claim is for just over the dollar limit, should I still file a lawsuit in small claims court?
- Will an attorney assist me with my small claims case if I want to represent myself at the trial?
- Can I sue a federal agency in small claims court?