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Colorado Small Claims Courts

In Colorado, people or businesses can sue other people or companies for up to $7,500.00 in small claims court. The Colorado County Court Civil Division processes small claims. A single plaintiff cannot file more than two claims per month or more than 18 small claims per year.

Small claims courts are designed to resolve minor civil suits quickly and efficiently. Small claims cases typically resolve much faster than civil court cases. Parties to a Colorado small claims case may hire an attorney, but they do not need to hire representation.

This article summarizes Colorado's small court claims rules and procedures. For more specific information, consider reviewing the following information:

What Is Small Claims Court?

Colorado's small claims court is a court with limited jurisdiction. These courts cannot award more than $7,500.00 in a single case. Thus, if the amount in dispute is over $7,500.00, the plaintiff can file a claim in small claims court and recover up to $7,500.00. In doing so, the plaintiff gives up their right to collect more money, also known as a waiver. Alternatively, they can file their civil case in district court. A plaintiff cannot split a claim into more minor claims to get around this requirement.

The person or entity who files a small claims case is the plaintiff. The entity against whom the lawsuit is filed is the defendant. The plaintiffs and defendants are parties to the action.

Plaintiffs may only file civil actions in small claims court. These cases typically involve money damages, property damages, or requests to take action. The following are common types of cases filed in small claims court:

  • Contractual disputes
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Property damage

Small claims courts cannot hear the following disputes:

Small claims courts do not have jury trials. A magistrate will typically decide your case. A party may request a judge decide the case.

Where to File a Small Claims Lawsuit

The plaintiff must decide in which venue to file their small claims case. To sue a defendant in a particular county, the defendant must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live in the county
  • Be a full-time student in the county
  • Be regularly employed in the county
  • Perform regular business in the county
  • Be a landlord owning property in the county, with the plaintiff's dispute regarding a security deposit paid to rent said property or a restrictive covenant

If a defendant does not meet one of these requirements, another county's court may have jurisdiction to hear the case. Consider contacting a civil litigation attorney for more specific information.

Time Frame to File a Small Claims Case

Specific causes of action have different time limits for filing a small claims case. If a plaintiff fails to file their lawsuit within the time frame, the statute of limitations bars the action. The Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) set out the statute of limitations for different actions. Generally, the relevant statutes of limitations for small court claims are as follows:

  • One year: motor vehicle repairs; tort actions; security deposits
  • Two years: bad checks (where triple damages are sought); actions against healthcare providers
  • Three years: actions arising out of a motor vehicle accident; contract disputes; fraudmisrepresentation
  • Six years: recovering bad debts; bad loans; bad checks (where triple damages are not sought)

The statutes of limitations are the same for small claims court and district court.

How to File a Small Claims Case

The plaintiff initiates a small claims case by filing a Notice, Claim, and Summons to Appear for Trial form with the county court. The form identifies the plaintiff, the defendant, and the amount of money the plaintiff alleges the defendant owes them. The court will charge the plaintiff a filing fee.

Additional filing instructions and self-help instructions are available online. Moreover, the clerk's office may assist you in filing the form. The court clerk, however, cannot provide you with legal advice.

Once the plaintiff files their case, they must serve the defendant. The plaintiff can serve the defendant in one of two ways:

  • Personal service: The plaintiff can either personally serve the defendant or they can contact the sheriff's office or a process server to serve the defendant for them. There may be fees associated with utilizing the sheriff or private server.
  • Certified Mail: The plaintiff can request the court to serve the defendant via certified mail. Only the court can use this method. The court will charge a fee to serve the defendant via certified mail.

The notice requirement is also known as the service of process. The plaintiff should file an affidavit of service with the court once they serve the defendant. The Colorado Judicial Branch offers additional information regarding serving the defendant.

Once the lawsuit is filed, the court will set a trial date. The court will note the court location and time of the hearing.


How To Respond to a Small Claims Case

A defendant who receives notice of a small claims case against them must respond to the lawsuit. The defendant must complete Part 2 and Page 3 of the Notice, Claim, and Summons to Appear for Trial form served on them.

If the defendant has claims against the plaintiff, the defendant may file a counterclaim. If the counterclaim alleges the plaintiff owes the defendant more than $7,500.00, the defendant may request the court remove the case from small claims court.

If a defendant does not respond to the plaintiff's claim, the plaintiff may ask the court to issue a default judgment. If the court issues a default judgment in the plaintiff's favor, the plaintiff prevails.

The Small Claims Hearing

Before the hearing, parties should prepare to present their respective cases. This can include gathering evidence to present at trial and securing witnesses to testify at the hearing. If a witness refuses to testify willingly, a party may request the court to subpoena the witness. A subpoena is a court order compelling a witness to testify at trial.

Additionally, the parties may conduct discovery. This could include obtaining a subpoena to request the other party produce certain documents before the hearing. They may also send written interrogatories to the other party to get answers to questions before the hearing.

At the hearing, the plaintiff will present their case first. Once the plaintiff presents their case, the defendant will make their case to the court.

What Happens After the Hearing?

The magistrate or judge will issue their judgment either immediately after the trial or at a later time. The magistrate or judge will determine the facts of the case. They may award a money judgment to the plaintiff or the defendant if the defendant made a counterclaim.

If the magistrate or judge issues a money judgment in favor of a party, that party is responsible for collecting money. The party owed money is the creditor. The party that owes money is the debtor.

If the debtor cannot or does not pay the creditor, the creditor may ask the court for assistance. In such instances, the creditor can request a writ of garnishment from the court or make a motion for interrogatories identifying the debtor's assets. The creditor may use the debtor's assets to satisfy the judgment. A writ of garnishment allows the debtor's wages to be garnished to satisfy the judgment.

Contact an Attorney for More Information

Parties to a small claims case in Colorado may hire an attorney. Small claims cases can involve complicated questions of law and fact. An attorney can provide expert legal services in your small claims case. Although an attorney may be due attorney fees, their legal assistance could be the difference between winning or losing at the hearing. Consider contacting a civil litigation attorney for your small claims case.

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