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Information for Plaintiffs in Small Claims Cases
Filing Your Claim

The person who files a claim is called the plaintiff. The person you are filing your claim against is called the defendant. You must file your claim at the county courthouse in the county where the defendant lives unless the defendant lives outside the state of Idaho. If the defendant lives outside Idaho, you must file your claim at the county courthouse in the county where your claim arose. For example, if your claim is about a car accident, then the county where the claim arose is the county where the accident happened.

You can get a claim form from the court clerk’s office. The form must be filled out with a typewriter or printed in black ink. You must fill out the form completely (except for the case number in the top right corner of the form) and you must sign the form in front of a notary or a court clerk. If you sign it in front of a notary, the notary must sign and seal the form.

When you have filled out the claim form, you must give it to the court clerk and the court clerk will file your claim. You will have to pay a filing fee. In some counties the filing fee must be paid in cash or money order; in some counties the court clerk will accept a personal check. In most counties the filing fee is non-refundable—the court clerk will not give it back to you for any reason.

When your claim is filed the court clerk will fill in the case number (a unique number that identifies your claim) at the top right corner of the form. You should have the case number handy whenever you ask the clerk’s office for information about your case. The court clerk will give you a copy of your claim with your case number. Keep this copy—you will need it later.

In some counties you can file your claim by mail. If you want to file by mail, you should call the court clerk’s office in the county where you will be filing your claim to find out if you can file your claim by mail and what you need to do to file it by mail.

Completing the Claim Form - You will need to have the following information to fill out your claim form:

·         Your name, address, and phone number

·         The name and address of the defendant and, if you have it or can get it, the defendant’s phone number--if there is more than one defendant you will need this information for each defendant

·         The amount of money you are asking the defendant to pay

·         If you are asking for the defendant to return personal property, a description of the property you are asking for and the value of the property

·         A short description of the basis for your claim

·         The date your claim arose


Name and Address of the Plaintiff
– You must be at least 18 years old to file a claim in small claims court. You must also be the true owner of the claim. You cannot bring a claim on behalf of someone else except in very limited circumstances—A parent or guardian can file a claim for a child under the age of 18 and a court-appointed guardian or conservator can file a claim for their ward. If the plaintiff is under 18, also list the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the minor. If you are a court-appointed guardian or conservator, list yourself as guardian or conservator and the person you are a guardian or conservator for as ward. For example, Jane Doe, a minor, and John and Mary Doe, parents of the minor or Lisa Doe, guardian, and Daniel Doe, ward

A corporation
can be a plaintiff in small claims court if it is registered with the Idaho Secretary of State. The claim must be filed by an officer of the corporation. If you are filing your claim as the officer of a corporation, list the name of the corporation and your name and title. For example, ABC Corporation and Michael Doe, president

A partnership can be a plaintiff in small claims court. The claim must be filed by a partner in the partnership. If you are filing your claim as a partner in a partnership, list the name of the partnership and your name as partner. For example, Coal House, a partnership, and Thomas Doe, partner

If you are filing your claim as the owner of an unincorporated business, list the name under which you are doing business and your own name. For example, Susan Doe, doing business as Susan’s Repair Shop

If you are filing your claim as the trustee of a trust, list the name of the trust and your name. For example, Doe Family Trust and Robert Doe, trustee

Notifying the Court Clerk of a Change in Your Address – If your mailing address changes, you must notify the court clerk in writing of your new address as soon as possible. The notice does not need to be in a special form—a letter is sufficient so long as it includes your case number. The court clerk will need to send you notices about your case and if you don’t give the court clerk written notice of your new address, notice will be complete when it is sent to your old address. You should also notify the court clerk in writing if your telephone number changes.

Name and Address of the Defendant –If the defendant is a minor (a person under the age of 18), also list the name(s) of the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the minor. For example, Jane Doe, a minor, and John and Mary Doe, parents of the minor

If the defendant is a business and the business is a corporation, list the name of the corporation and the person who is the registered agent of the corporation. If the corporation is an Idaho corporation you can find out the name and address of the registered agent by calling the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. For example, ABC Corporation and Betty Doe, registered agent

If the defendant is a business and the business is a partnership, list the name of the partnership and at least one partner. It is better to list each of the partners. The judge cannot enter a judgment against the partnership unless at least one of the partners is named and the court cannot enter a judgment against any partner who is not named. If the partnership has filed a partnership statement with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, you can find out the names and addresses of the partners by calling that office. For example, Coal House, a partnership, and Thomas Doe, individually and as a partner

If the defendant is a business and the business is a sole proprietorship (the owner is a person doing business but it is not a partnership or corporation), list the owner’s name and the business name. If you only know the business name, you may be able to find out the owner’s name and address by calling the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. For example, Susan Doe, doing business as Susan’s Repair Shop

If your claim is against someone who has insurance, you cannot file a claim against the insurance company. For example, if you were in a car accident and you want to file a claim because the driver of the other car caused the accident, you must sue the driver--not the driver’s insurance company.

If you want to file a claim against a government agency or against an employee of the agency for acts done by the employee acting in the course and scope of employment, you must first file a claim with the agency. The claim must contain certain information, be filed at a certain office of the agency, and be filed within certain deadlines. After a claim is filed with the agency, the agency has a certain amount of time in which to decide whether to pay or deny the claim. Also, there are some types of claims from which a government agency is excepted from liability (types of claims for which a government agency can’t be sued for damages). A claim against a government agency must be filed in the county where the plaintiff lives unless the plaintiff lives out of state. If the plaintiff lives out of state, then the claim must be filed in the county where the claim arose.

The Amount of Money You Are Asking the Defendant to Pay – The amount of money cannot be for more than $5,000 (plus the cost of the filing fee and the cost of giving notice to the defendant).

You cannot avoid the $5,000 limit by filing more than one claim. If you file a second claim about the same transaction or occurrence, the judge will deny your second claim. If it is obvious that the second claim is about the same transaction or occurrence, the judge may give the defendant a judgment against you for any costs the defendant had because of the second claim. For example, if you are a landlord, you cannot file one claim for unpaid rent and another for damages to the rental property.

If you are not sure about the amount of money to ask for, ask for the full amount that you think is fair and reasonable up to $5,000. You cannot increase the amount you are asking for unless you file an amended claim for the larger amount. To file an amended claim you must complete a new claim form and write the word “AMENDED” next to the word “CLAIM” at the top of the form. You must file the form with the court clerk and give notice to the defendant of the amended claim following the same steps for filing and giving notice of your original claim

Personal Property You Are Asking the Defendant to Return – If the defendant has personal property (anything other than land or buildings) that belongs to you, you can use small claims court to ask for the return of your personal property.

If you are asking for the return of personal property, you must describe the property in enough detail so that the defendant can tell what property you are asking for. It is better to describe the property in enough detail so that someone else would be able to recognize the property when they looked at it. For example, the make, model, and serial number provided by the manufacturer of the property you are asking for. If there is not enough space on the claim form, you can type or write it in black ink on another piece of paper and give it to the court clerk with your claim form.

You must also write down the value of the property. You cannot ask for the return of property that is worth more than $5,000 in small claims court. If you are asking for the defendant to pay you money and to return personal property, the total cannot be more than $5,000. You cannot avoid the $5,000 limit by filing more than one claim about the same transaction or occurrence.

A Short Description of the Basis of Your Claim – You must describe the basis for your claim in enough detail so that the defendant will know what you are suing about and so that the judge will know generally what type of case he or she will be hearing. No special language is required. For example, if your claim is about a car accident, you could write “car accident.” If the defendant wrote you a check and the bank did not pay on the check, you could write “bad check.” If you went to a shop to have your lawn mower repaired and the repairs were not done properly, you could write “faulty lawn mower repair.” If you made a loan to the defendant and the defendant did not pay it back when it was due, you could write “default on loan” or “overdue on loan.”

The Date Your Claim Arose – You must write down the date your claim arose. The date can be a “rough” date but you should include at least the month and year the best that you can remember. For example, if your claim is about a renter who didn’t pay rent or who damaged the rental property, the date could be when the rent was due or when the renter moved out. If your claim is about a landlord who didn’t return your security deposit, the date could be the day you moved out.

There are laws called statutes of limitations (time limits on filing claims). There are different time limits for different types of claims and the time limit is extended in some circumstances. If you file a claim after the time limit, the judge will deny your claim. The court clerk cannot tell you the time limit that applies in your case. Generally, you should file your claim within a year after the claim arose. There are many types of cases in which the time limit is more than one year and a few in which it is shorter. The judge will decide at the hearing whether your claim is within the time limit.


 

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