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the legal corner * Small ClaimS Court If you have a small dispute or small case, then small claims court might be the court for you. Small claims court is a court of limited jurisdiction, which means the amount in controversy cannot exceed $6,000. Small claims court is a fast and inexpensive way to resolve minor cases like property damage, car accidents or breach of contract. A case is tried before a judge and most of the time the litigants are unrepresented. It looks like TV’s “The People’s Court.” Small claims court is not a place to decide complex litigation like malpractice or land disputes. A suit can be brought by an individual or an entity like a corporation or limited liability company. Oftentimes collection actions by debt collectors are brought against individuals in small claims court. Small claims court has forms to help the litigants proceed on the action. Once the affidavit, which starts the suit, is served on the defendant the case will proceed to trial not more than twelve days after service nor fewer than three days. This is a quick turnaround time. At the trial both sides can offer evidence. The rules of evidence for small claims court are uncomplicated and even allow hearsay. According to Rule 6 of the Rules for Small Claims cases, “Strict rules of evidence shall not apply in trials of small claims actions. Irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. A court may in its discretion review the type of evidence commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent persons in the conduct of their serious business affairs. Hearsay that is probative, trustworthy, and credible may be received into evidence.” The rules are so relaxed that a defendant served with a small claims action need not even answer, but can appear for the trial and defend their case. Litigants should be warned that they should bring all evidence and all witnesses to Court that are necessary to prove or defend their claim. Many times the Court will allow one side to win over the other simply because a case has not been proven. One pitfall that many litigants are unaware of is the venue provisions of small claims court. Venue means the proper location, like Casper as opposed to Cheyenne, to bring the action. A plaintiff must sue a defendant in small claims court only in the place that the defendant has an address. P. Craig Silva - Attorney 159 N Wolcott St., Suite 400, Casper, WY (307) 265-0700 • www.wpdn.net * This material is not intended to be legal advice. Individuals should discuss any questions regarding this material with an attorney. P. Craig Silva is an attorney with the law firm of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C.