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 $5,000.
Make sure that you have some proof of the debt such as a receipt, note, bill of sale, warranty or a witness. If at all possible, try to settle your dispute out of court. When a reasonable agreement can't be reached, a claim may be filed.
To start a small claims lawsuit, the plaintiff must file a claim affidavit in district court. The following information is required on the form:
- Your name, address and telephone number
- The name, address where the defendant can be served and telephone number of the defendant
- The amount of money the defendant owes you
- A statement about why the defendant owes you money
The plaintiff must sign the completed claim affidavit before a clerk of the court or a notary public. The plaintiff must also fill out, sign and have an affidavit of identification form notarized for each defendant. The claim affidavit must then be filed with the clerk of district court and a $10 filing fee must be paid before the defendant is served.
Where to File
A small claims case may generally be filed in the county of the defendant's residence, the county of the defendant's place of business or the county where the transaction occurred.
If the defendant requests a hearing on the claim, the court will schedule the hearing not less than ten days or more than 30 days after receiving the defendant's request. The court will send the plaintiff a notice of the hearing date. At the time set for the hearing, the plaintiff must come to court. If the plaintiff fails to appear the claim may be dismissed, and the plaintiff may be prohibited from bringing it up again.
Notice to Defendant
The defendant may be served by certified mail or by a disinterested adult. The defendant must be served with the following forms:
- Small claims court information
- Claim affidavit
- Request for hearing/removal to district court
- Defendant's answer and counterclaim
- Affidavit of mailing for counterclaim
- North Dakota Small Claims Court Act
If you are filing a claim against more than one defendant, you must serve each defendant with all of the forms listed above.
Affidavit of Service
After the defendant has been served with copies of the required forms, the plaintiff must complete an affidavit of service form. The plaintiff fills out the form and then has the person who mailed or served the defendant sign the form in front of a clerk of court or notary public.
If you mail the forms to the defendant by certified return receipt mail, you must file the affidavit of service and the signed, green return receipt card with the clerk of district court as soon as you receive the green card from the post office.
If the sheriff serves the papers, the sheriff will provide you with a completed affidavit of service. You must file the sheriff's affidavit with the clerk of district court as soon as you receive it from the sheriff's department.
If the defendant intends to contest the plaintiff's claim and request a hearing in small claims court, or request removal of the case to district court, the defendant must file a request for hearing/removal to district court form with the clerk of the district court within 20 days of receipt of the claim affidavit.
If the defendant believes the plaintiff owes money to him or her, the defendant should state why money is owed and how much in the answer. This is called a counterclaim.
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?