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What Is a Small Claims Court in Arizona?

A small claims court is a part of Arizona's justice of peace court, which handles civil cases involving money for damages not greater than $3,500. The main objective of the court is to swiftly and quickly resolve minor civil disputes. Justice of the peace or a small claims hearing officer presides over small claims cases in Arizona. Small claims lawsuit does not involve a jury, and there is no right to appeal. Also, the plaintiff and the defendant do not need lawyers except if both parties agree.

Complainants must complete the necessary documents to initiate the process of filing in a small claims court. These forms include small claims summons form, a small claims complaint form, and proof of service by registered or certified mail form. However, the court may require some other files as the case proceeds.

How Does Arizona Small Claims Court Work?

The small claims court in Arizona has jurisdiction over small claims cases where the amount for reparations is not up to $3,500. This sum excludes interests and filing costs. An individual or business entity may choose to file a case in a small claims court to avoid attorney cost and the right to appeal the case's outcome. Nevertheless, parties can employ attorneys on mutual grounds. According to A.R.S. § 22-202, the primary condition for documenting small claims cases is that petitioners can only file in a small claims court where the defendant lives.

Examples of situations that can lead to filing a small claims case include damages to the individual's property, failure to repay loans or debts, personal injury, and breach of contract. The small claims court can also resolve disagreements with a contractor working on a property and the building owner.

In Arizona, the small claims court does not hear defamation cases either by libel or slander or a lawsuit that seeks injunctive relief. Other legal actions not permitted in the small claims court include traffic violation, forcible entry, and a case against the state of Arizona or any of its officers acting in an official capacity.

Furthermore, the jurisdiction of Arizona small claims court does not cover class action and criminal lawsuits. A class action is a legal action involving a group of individuals represented by one or more members of the group. A criminal case, on the other hand, describes acts that violate the criminal code. Examples are assault and murder.

How to Take Someone to a Small Claims Court in Arizona

To take someone to a small claims court in Arizona, the plaintiff must file a claim with the court clerk at the justice court by submitting the appropriate forms. At this stage, the complainant and the accused can choose to settle out of court. The petitioner will also pay the filing fee or request a waiver. After filing the forms, the complainant will serve the accused person using a registered mail, a process server, or a sheriff. The defendant must respond within 20 days.

The court will fix a hearing date within 60 days after the defendant's response.

How Much Can You Sue for in Arizona Small Claims Court?

A complainant seeking to file in small claims court must ensure that the amount does not exceed $3,500. Secondly, the plaintiff must file correctly in the appropriate justice court and state reasons for the claim. Plaintiffs with a lawsuit that exceeds $3,500 for damages but less than $10,000 can file a claim in the justice of peace court, while a petitioner who wants to sue for an amount of more than $10,000 can apply in the superior court.

Either party in a small claims suit may also petition to have their court costs covered by the other party. Where there is sufficient justification, the court may include the total costs of filing and legal fees to the amount that the winner or creditor is entitled to. The cost of filing for a small claims lawsuit depends on the court. Notwithstanding, small claims filing fees in Arizona cost $25.00, and small claims answers attract $15.00. The minimum clerk fee cost $28.00, copies of the document per page cost $0.50, and small claims service by mail cost $ 8.00.

How to Defend Yourself in Arizona Small Claims Court?

Upon receipt of the notice of a suit in Arizona, defendants who disagree with the claim can voice their dispute at the court hearing. However, defendants are allowed to file a counterclaim at least 7 working days before the scheduled court hearing if a plaintiff owes them money. In this instance, the court will notify the plaintiff, and the claim will be heard alongside the original case on the trial date. If the counterclaim exceeds the limit of the small claims court, it will be heard in the Justice of the peace court. However, if the defendant fails to file this claim in the justice of the peace court, the plaintiff may move the case back to the small claims court.

The filing process for a counterclaim is similar. Generally, defendants must file the Statement of Counterclaim and Summons form with the court and pay the relevant filing fee (or request a fee waiver). This counterclaim form can be downloaded online or obtained from the local courthouse.

Usually, there is a statute of limitation that applies to each small claims case. That is, a period of time within which a claimant can recover damages for an injury or harm. However, this limit differs by the type of claim.

How Long Do You Have to Take Someone to Arizona Small Claims Court?

In Arizona, petitioners have two years to file for claims involving injury and property damages. The time limit for a contract breach is six years. Consequently, a complainant does not have the right to file for small claims if the time limit expires.

What Happens if You Don't Show Up for Arizona Small Claims Court?

If the defendant does not respond, the plaintiff can file for an application for entry of default. During the hearing, the plaintiff and defendant can employ attorneys depending on the agreement between both parties. In most cases, the outcome of the judgment is announced after the hearing. Nevertheless, the judge can consider and conduct the necessary research for ten days before giving a verdict. In such an instance, both parties get the judgment via mail.

After the judgment, either party cannot file an appeal as the judge's decision is final and binding. The defendant must pay the settlement fee immediately after the verdict. The plaintiff must file a satisfaction of judgment within 30 days after receiving the settlement fee.

What are Arizona Small Claims Court Records?

Arizona small claims court records refer to court documents that contain an account of the legal proceedings of a small claims court. They usually contain all information on the suits filed in the state justice of the peace courts. Per state law, Arizona small claims court records are available to interested and eligible members of the public upon request - this is unless the records are sealed or have been restricted by a court order.

Where Can I Find Arizona Small Claims Court Records?

State residents interested in accessing Arizona court records may query the office of the clerk of courts in the courthouse where the case was filed and heard. Requests may be made in writing and submitted via mail or email, or requests may be made online, via phone, fax, or in person.

Alternatively, requesters can access Arizona small claims court records using the statewide wide database for court records - the Arizona Judicial Branch case search tool. However, this resource only hosts records from 177 out of the 184 courts in Arizona, hence requestors are advised to query their local courthouses directly or consider the unavailable court’s list before using the statewide database.