Small Claims Court is a special division of Justice Court. Small Claims Court is designed to hep parties who do not have attorneys resolve their disputes quickly and inexpensively. Claims in Small Claims Court must be $10,000.00 or less, and judges can award only monetary damages. This means that judges in Small Claims Court can only order the other party to pay money. They cannot order the other party to perform an action, such as returning property or ceasing to play loud music.
Generally, parties in Small Claims Court represent themselves without an attorney. This is sometimes called “appearing pro se” or being “self-represented.” Attorneys are allowed in Small Claims Court. However, the winning party in a small claims case cannot collect attorney’s fees from the losing party. Therefore, a party who hires an attorney will bear the burden of paying that attorney. Because parties generally represent themselves in Small Claims Court, the procedures and rules of evidence are more relaxed than in ordinary Justice Court.
For information on how to file a small claims complaint, or to collect on a small claims judgement, download the Court’s Guide to Small Claims.
Additional small claims forms are available on the Forms page. https://eastforkjusticecourt.com/forms/
The court has established a program of mediation to encourage members of our community to resolve their disputes. Mediation is a process in which the parties meet with a neutral third party to try and reach a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation is conducted by trained mediators, volunteer attorneys, or retired judges at the East Fork Justice Court. Mediation is free and confidential. Nothing that is said or done in mediation is admissible, or can be considered, by the small claims judge at trial. The mediator is only there to facilitate a respectful environment to help the parties look at their goals and options so they can find a solution that leaves everyone satisfied.
One of the advantages of mediation is that you can reach agreements that include provisions that cannot be ordered in Small Claims Court. Small Claims judges can only award money, but a mediation agreement can include other types of relief (for example, the return of a pet, the repair of a car) tailored to the needs of the individual participants.
If you do reach an agreement with the opposing party, the mediator will write up the agreement for you on a court form. Both parties will sing the written agreement, and it will be filed with the Court. That agreement then becomes a written contract and can be enforced by both parties.
If one party breaches the agreement, the other party can obtain a judgment without having to go to a hearing by notifying the court of the default in a written motion. Both parties should be aware that if they sign an agreement in mediation and then breach the agreement, they will not have an opportunity to contest the underlying issue in court. moreover, parties should be wary of signing a mediation agreement that imposes a monetary penalty on them for breaching the agreement.
If you do not reach an agreement during mediation, you can proceed with your lawsuit. There is no penalty for failing to reach an agreement. Your matter will be set for trial and you will get a notice of the date by mail.
Can I Mediate Before Filing a Law Suit?
If you simply want to try a free mediation instead of filing a lawsuit, you can try mediation by contacting the Judicial Assistant at the East Fork Justice Court at 775-782-9955. She will contact your opposing party to see if they are interested in trying to mediate your dispute. Unfortunately, unless mediation has been mandated by the court, you can only go to mediation if both parties agree to it.