Small claims courts can be used by any individual, partnership, association or corporation for civil claims that do not exceed $3,500. Procedures in small claims cases are intended to be simple enough for a person to file all the necessary forms and represent him/herself at an informal hearing. Lawyers are typically not allowed, but may be allowed to participate if all parties agree.
All cases are heard by either a judge or hearing officer, who then makes a decision that is final and binding on both parties. There is no right to a jury trial or an appeal in small claims cases. Formal Rules of Procedure do not apply.
Either party may object to the proceedings being held in the small claims division. The request must be made in writing at least 10 working days prior to the time set for the hearing. The case then will be transferred, the rules of civil procedure apply to the case, permitting claims in excess of $3,500, attorney representation, jury trial and appeal. The party requesting the transfer will be assessed a transfer fee.
The clerks at the Justice Courts are available to answer most questions relating to jurisdiction, venue, pleadings or procedures that this web site cannot answer for you. Please keep in mind that the clerk cannot engage in the practice of law and cannot give you legal advice.
- Statutes of Limitation
Time limits in civil actions accrue from the date the events that gave rise to the action occurred. The time limits apply to both civil suits and small claims. Please note, this list is meant as a general guide. Not all of the cases listed below can be filed or heard in Justice Court. Click here to view the Arizona laws outlining statutes of limitation.
Malicious prosecution; false imprisonment; libel or slander; breach of employment contract; wrongful termination; liability created by statute
Personal injury; injury when death ensues; damage to property; conversion of property; product liability; forcible entry and forcible detainer
Debt from oral contract; stated or open account; relief on ground of fraud or mistake
Bond to convey realty; partnership account; account between merchants; judgment or instrument given or made without the state; bond of personal representative or guardian; specific performance of contract to convey realty, actions for which no limitation is otherwise prescribed (other than for recovery of real property)
Written contracts for debt
Note: Under some special circumstances, time limits can be extended or deferred. Please consult an attorney to determine if these circumstances apply to your case.
- Initiating a Small Claims Case
A plaintiff (the person or organization bringing the suit) begins a small claims case by filing a Complaint with the proper justice court. Click here for online instructions and online forms. The case must be filed in the correct venue. The plaintiff must file the complaint in the justice court in which the defendant (the person or organization being sued) resides or operates a business, or where the act/incident took place.
Click here to go to the Location Section for help in determining the correct precinct for your case.
Click here for examples of how to fill in "defendant designation".
Click here for a list of fees associated with Small Claims cases
Click here for the Small Claims Instructions & Guide, and other forms related to small claims cases
Neither party can appeal the decision of the judge or hearing officer in a small claims case. If either party believes the judgment was entered in error, or if there were good reasons for one of the parties not appearing in court, that party may file a Motion to Vacate Judgment asking the court to set aside, or vacate, the judgment. The court will review the motion and notify both parties of its decision.
The plaintiff may be awarded a judgment on the claim against the defendant or the defendant may be awarded a judgment on a counterclaim (if one was filed) against the plaintiff. The party awarded judgment is known as the Judgment Creditor and the party who the judgment is against is known as the Judgment Debtor.
To obtain information about the Judgment Debtor's employment, bank accounts or other assets you may ask the Court for an order for a debtor's examination to be held immediately following the trial or at any other time after Judgment. Additional fees and costs are required for issuing and serving an order for a debtor's examination) (called an Order for Supplemental Proceedings).
Writ of Garnishment
A Writ of Garnishment of earnings can be issued after you make a formal written demand for payment of the judgment amount. A Writ of Garnishment on non-earnings can be issued to garnish other assets, such as a bank account or other income property.
Writ of Execution
A Writ of Execution empowers the Constable to levy on non-exempt personal property of value. You must provide a description and the location of the property.
The clerk can provide you with the necessary garnishment or execution forms. You will have to pay additional fees and costs for issuing and serving Writs of Garnishment and Writs of Execution. If your judgment is the result of an automobile accident for which you have an accident report and remains unpaid 60 days after the judgment has been entered, you may notify the court. A clerk will then report the non-payment to the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division. MVD will suspend the judgment debtor's driver's license, registration and non-resident operating privilege.
When you are paid in full you must file a Satisfaction of Judgment with the court. This form is available from the court.