In North Dakota, small claims court is a division of district court where cases may be heard that involve recovery of money or cancellation of any agreement involving material fraud, deception, misrepresentation or false promise. There are simple procedures for small claims and specifically designed forms. The process is easy enough for a person to handle their case without the assistance of an attorney but attorneys are allowed. There are no jury trials.
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.
Transferring Case to District Court
The plaintiff may not change his or her mind and have the case moved to district court if a claim is filed in the small claims court. The defendant may have the case moved to the district court by filing a removal to district court form within 20 days of receipt of the claim affidavit and serving a copy of the removal form on the plaintiff.
Parties in Small Claims Actions
Any individual, business or corporation may bring a small claims suit for the recovery of money when the amount requested is $5,000 or less.
Where to File a Small Claims Case
If the claim is for collection of a check written without sufficient funds or without an account, a claim may be filed in the county where the check was passed or in the county of the defendant's residence or place of business.
If the defendant is an individual and the claim is for collection of an open account on which credit has been extended then the claim may be filed in either of the following:
- The county of the defendant's residence or place of business
- The county where the transaction occurred or in the county of the defendant's residence or place of business if the amount of the claim is less than $1,000 and is not from a telephone or mail order transaction
If the defendant is an individual and the claim is not for collection of a check or open account then the claim may be filed in the defendant's county of residence.
If the defendant is an individual and the claim is the result of the defendant's lease of real property, the claim may be filed in the county where the defendant resides or in the county where the real property is located.
If the defendant is a corporation or a partnership, a claim may be filed in any county the defendant has a place of business or in any county where the subject matter of the claim occurred.
Generally, the defendant may choose to remove the action to a small claims court in the defendant's county of residence.
In small claims court, you don't have the right to appeal the judge's decision.
Cases Suitable for Small Claims Court
Many different kinds of cases go to small claims court. Examples of cases that are handled in small claims court:
- Collection cases
- Consumer claims
- Landlord/tenant disputes
Statute of Limitations
Under the law, there are limits on how long you have to bring any lawsuit. These limits are called "statute of limitations." In general, you can't file a claim in small claims court if more than six years have elapsed since the date of the debt or date of the last payment. This time period my vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
Court Costs and Filing Fees
The plaintiff has to pay certain fees when a case is filed. If the plaintiff wins, the judge may order the defendant to reimburse the plaintiff's court costs. Filing fees vary and frequently change.
When the defendant receives notice of the small claims filing, he or she may file a "counterclaim." A counterclaim is a statement filed by the defendant claiming the plaintiff owes money or property to the defendant.
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 even though I can't be represented by one in small claims court?
- Can I sue a federal agency in small claims court?