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Kansas Small Claims Courts

Kansas small claims courts use simplified rules to allow non-legal professionals to resolve their minor civil disputes quickly and efficiently. These courts can hear civil lawsuits involving monetary disputes or the return of property. The amount in dispute cannot exceed $4,000.00.

Parties to a small claims case in Kansas cannot hire an attorney to represent them; they must represent their case on their own behalf. Small claims court hearings follow informal rules of evidence and civil procedure.

This article summarizes Kansas' small claims court rules and procedures. The following resources provide small claims information that may be helpful to parties involved in a small claims case:

  • About Small Claims Court: The Kansas Judicial Branch website provides information on its small claims court rules and procedures. It also provides links to each Judicial District's small claims courts.
  • Small Claims Court - Basic Information: Kansas Legal Services, a non-profit law firm in Topeka, summarizes the small claims court rules and procedures.
  • Small Claims Court Brochure: The Kansas Bar Association provides a brochure summarizing the small claims court system.
  • Filing a Small Claims Case: The Kansas Judicial Council provides instructions and forms for plaintiffs who want to file a small claims case.
  • Responding to a Small Claims Case: The Kansas Judicial Council provides instructions and forms for defendants who are involved in a small claims case.

Although parties to a small claims case in Kansas cannot hire attorneys to represent them in the case, attorneys may provide helpful legal assistance to the parties in other respects. If you are unsure of whether your case belongs in small claims court, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney near you.

Kansas Small Claims Court Explained

The Kansas small claims court system was designed to allow people and entities to quickly resolve minor legal issues without spending large sums of money. Although the court will charge filing fees for small claims cases, such cases are typically inexpensive compared to cases filed in state or federal court.

Kansas small claims courts have limited jurisdiction, which means they can only hear certain types of cases. For example, if the plaintiff's claim exceeds $4,000.00, it likely does not belong in small claims court. Generally, small claims courts can hear the following disputes:

  • Breach of contract
  • Personal injury
  • Return of personal property (replevin)

Parties cannot hire attorneys to represent them in small claims cases, and there are no jury trials. An individual cannot file more than 20 small claims cases in a calendar year.

The person or entity filing a lawsuit is the plaintiff. The person or entity whom the plaintiff is suing is the defendant. The plaintiffs and defendants in a small claims case are known as parties. Generally, all parties to the lawsuit must be at least 18 years of age.

Filing a Small Claims Case

The plaintiff must file several documents to initiate their lawsuit. The rules may change depending on the county the plaintiff files the case. Generally, the plaintiff must complete the following forms:

  • Civil cover sheet: The plaintiff must identify the address of the person or entity they are suing. They must also state the amount of money they claim the defendant owe them. Among other things, the Civil Cover Sheet indicates the case is a small claims case. Furthermore, the plaintiff must indicate the service method they will use to notify the defendant of the case.
  • Self-represented litigant certification form: This form certifies that the plaintiff is representing themselves in the small claims action.
  • Petition: The plaintiff must state the basis of their claim in the Petition.
  • Summons: The Summons notifies the defendant that the plaintiff is suing them. It also notifies the defendant of the small claims court hearing date.
  • Request for service: The plaintiff must indicate the service method they wish to use to notify the defendant of the case.
  • Poverty affidavit: The Poverty Affidavit is an optional form for plaintiffs who cannot afford the court's filing fee.

The Clerk of the District Court Office can provide the plaintiff with the appropriate forms. The forms are also available online. Although the clerk's office may provide assistance in filing the forms, they cannot provide parties with legal advice.

Once the plaintiff has completed the appropriate forms, they may file their case. The court will charge a filing fee. The court will likely require the plaintiff to pay the filing fee by check or money order. If a plaintiff cannot afford the filing fee, they may request a waiver from the court. Most small claims courts offer self-help regarding filing a claim.

Where and When to File a Small Claims Case

The plaintiff must file their small claims case in an appropriate venue. Typically, the plaintiff may file their case in any of the following counties:

  • Where the defendant lives
  • Where the plaintiff lives if the defendant is served in that county
  • Where the defendant works if the defendant is served in that county
  • Where the property involved in the lawsuit is located
  • Where the dispute giving rise to the lawsuit occurred if the defendant is served in that county

If the defendant is a corporation, or if they do not live in Kansas, different venues may be appropriate.

The statute of limitations applies to all civil claims, and it is a time limit within which the plaintiff must file their claim. If the plaintiff does not file their claim within the time limit, the statute of limitations will bar the claim. State law governs the statute of limitations for claims.

Serving the Defendant

Once the plaintiff files their case, they must notify the defendant(s) of the lawsuit. Serving a defendant involves sending specific documents indicating the plaintiff is suing them. There are several methods to effect service on the defendant. These methods include the following:

  • Sheriff's office: The plaintiff may contact the county sheriff in the county in which they filed their lawsuit. The sheriff's office will likely charge a service fee to serve the forms on the defendant.
  • Certified mail: The plaintiff may request the court to serve the defendant via certified mail. The court clerk can provide the plaintiff with an informational packet regarding service by certified mail.
  • Private process server: The plaintiff may hire a special process server to locate and serve the defendant. The court clerk can provide the plaintiff with more information about private process servers. Process servers will likely charge a service of process fee.
  • Personal service: The plaintiff may physically deliver the necessary forms to the defendant.

Failing to properly serve a defendant may delay the case, or the court may dismiss the case altogether. Therefore, it is essential the plaintiff properly serve the defendant.

Responding to the Small Claims Case

When the defendant receives notice of the lawsuit, they do not need to file an answer. Instead, they can review the documents and determine whether they have any claims against the plaintiff. If the defendant has a claim against the defendant, they may file a counterclaim. The counterclaim must stem from the same events the plaintiff noted on their summons and complaint.

To file a counterclaim, the defendant must complete the following two forms:

  • Defendant's Claim
  • Self-Represented Litigant Certification Form

The defendant must file these documents at the court before the court date listed on the summons. The court clerk can provide assistance and answer questions regarding the defendant's case filings. Again, however, the court clerk cannot provide any legal advice to the parties.

Preparing for the Small Claims Court Hearing

Before the small claims case hearing, parties may conduct discovery to learn more about the other party's claims. For example, the defendant may serve written interrogatories on the plaintiff to learn more about the case.

Additionally, the parties may secure witnesses to testify at the upcoming hearing. If a witness does not willingly appear at the hearing, a party may request a subpoena from the court. A subpoena is a court order requiring a witness to appear at the hearing or for a party to produce certain information.

Parties should plan to attend the hearing on the small claims court date in person or, if the hearing takes place electronically, remotely. If a party fails to appear at the hearing, the court may enter a default judgment. If the court enters a default judgment in favor of a party, that party prevails in the case.

Parties to a Kansas small claims court case need to bring a journal entry to the hearing. The court clerk can provide more information about the journal entry requirements.

The Small Claims Court Hearing

A small claims court hearing follows informal rules of civil procedure and evidence. The District Magistrate Judge in a small claims case may take a more active role than in a civil case.

At the hearing, the parties will present opening arguments to the court. This allows them to state the basis of their claim and why they should prevail. After the opening arguments conclude, the plaintiff will present their side of the case, such as proffering evidence and examining witnesses. If a party calls a witness to testify, the other party will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Once the plaintiff finishes presenting their case, the defendant will present their own case.

The District Magistrate Judge will decide who wins the case. They will issue a Journal Entry of Judgment, which is a determination of who owes whom money, if at all. The party owed money is the judgment creditor. The party who owes money is the judgment debtor.

If a party disagrees with the judgment, they may file a notice of appeal. The appealing party must file the notice of appeal within 14 days of the judgment. A District Court Judge will hear the case on appeal.

Enforcing a Judgment

It is the judgment creditor's responsibility to enforce the judgment against the judgment debtor. The judgment is not an order for the judgment debtor to pay the judgment creditor. Instead, it is simply a determination of who owes whom money or who must return property to whom.

The judgment creditor and judgment debtor can discuss the payment method and timing. If the judgment debtor cannot or does not pay the judgment, the judgment creditor may contact the clerk for assistance.

The court will attach a form entitled Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets to the Journal Entry of Judgment. This form allows the court to, for example, garnish the judgment debtor's wages or bank account.

If the judgment debtor does not satisfy the judgment within 15 days of the final judgment, the judgment creditor may mail the Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets to the defendant. Once the defendant receives the forms, they have 30 days to satisfy the judgment, or they may be summoned back to court.

Contact an Attorney

An experienced attorney can advise you on your case's strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, they can provide legal advice regarding whether you should file your claim in small claims court or in the district court. Although small claims deal with relatively small amounts of money, that does not mean it will be a simple case. If you are involved in a lawsuit or plan on filing a lawsuit, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney near you.

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