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Nebraska Small Claims Courts

In Nebraska, each county court has a Small Claims Department, also known as the small claims court. Parties may only file civil actions involving disputes over amounts of money owed, damage to property, or the return of personal property. Judgments in small claims court may not exceed $3,900.

The following links provide further information about Nebraska's small claims court:

This article describes Nebraska's small claims court process, including how to file a small claims case, respond to a claim filed against you, and the small claims trial.

Small Claims Explained

Any person 18 or older may file a small claims case in Nebraska. Entities such as businesses, partnerships, and corporations may also file small claims cases. The person or entity that brings a small claims case is the plaintiff. The person or entity against whom they file the case is the defendant. The plaintiffs and defendants in a lawsuit are known as the parties to the lawsuit.

Parties to a small claims case in Nebraska cannot hire attorneys. A county judge presides over the small claims hearing; no jury trials exist. The hearings follow informal court rules. The small claims court's informal nature allows litigants to pursue or defend against a claim without attorneys.

Small claims court cases are resolved quicker and cheaper when compared to civil cases in the district court. This is one of the significant benefits of small claims court.

A person or entity may not file more than two small claims in one week and no more than 10 small claims cases in a calendar year.

How To File a Claim

Plaintiffs must file a Plaintiff's Claim and Notice to Defendant form to begin their small claims case. The claim form is available online or at your local courthouse. It identifies the parties to the case. The plaintiff must also indicate the amount of money or a description of the specific property in dispute they allege the defendant owes them and the basis for their claim.

The Nebraska Supreme Court allows plaintiffs to file their claim form online, in person, or by mail. The court will charge the plaintiff a filing fee.

Plaintiffs must file their case in a court with jurisdiction over the defendant. This often means the plaintiff must file the lawsuit in the county where the defendant lives. Other appropriate venues may include the county where the cause of action arose or where the defendant works.

Once the plaintiff files their small claims court case, the court will schedule it on its docket. It will set a court date and assign a case number.

Serving the Defendant

It is essential that the plaintiff list the defendant's correct address on the claim form. When the court accepts the filing, the plaintiff must indicate how to notify the defendant of the lawsuit. For example, they may have the court send the notice via certified mail. They may choose to have a process server, such as the sheriff's office, serve the defendant in person. 

Either way, if the defendant's address is incorrect, the defendant may not receive notice. In that case, it may lead to extra time and expense to the plaintiff's case, or the court may dismiss it.

The plaintiff must pay a service fee in relation to serving the defendant. The fee may vary depending on the chosen service method. If the plaintiff wins their case, they may recover the filing and service fees.

Responding to a Small Claims Case

A defendant who receives notice of a small claims case against them may do several things. For example, they may contact the plaintiff and try to work things out before the small claims hearing. They also can dispute the plaintiff's claim. In that case, they may prepare their defense in anticipation of the hearing.

If a defendant has claims against the defendant, they file a counterclaim, also called a setoff. For example, if the defendant believes the plaintiff owes them money or must return possible property, they may file a counterclaim. If the counterclaim's value exceeds $3,900, the court will transfer the case to a county court docket.

A defendant must file their counterclaim in the same court where the plaintiff's claim is pending. They must serve the plaintiff with notice of the counterclaim, similar to the plaintiff's burden described above.

In addition, a defendant can transfer the case to the county court docket. The defendant must choose to transfer the case at least two days before the scheduled hearing and pay the requisite fees. A defendant may choose to do so if they want to hire an attorney to represent them. The plaintiff cannot object to the transfer.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

If the parties decide to try to settle their case before the hearing, they have several options. Of course, the parties may meet to discuss their claim and try to reach a suitable resolution. Nebraska also offers six mediation centers for parties to resolve their case. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It involves using a neutral mediator who attempts to help the parties reach an amicable resolution.

If the parties agree to settle their case, they must inform the court. The court recommends the parties put the settlement agreement in writing. The court will dismiss the case and enter a judgment in accordance with the settlement.

The Small Claims Court Hearing

All parties must attend the scheduled small claims court hearing. If the defendant fails to appear, the court may enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. If the court does so, the plaintiff wins the case. The court may dismiss the case if the plaintiff does not appear for the hearing.

Both parties will have an opportunity to present their side of the case at the hearing. They will both have the opportunity to present evidence. This may include introducing contracts, photographs, or more to the court. They may also secure witnesses to testify at the hearing. If a witness informs a party that they do not want to testify, a party may issue a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order that compels a witness to appear and provide testimony.

On the day of the hearing, the plaintiff presents their side of the case first. Once the plaintiff finishes their arguments, the defendant presents their side of the case. If one party calls a witness to testify, the other party can cross-examine the witness.

After the trial, the judge will determine the winning and losing party. The judge may enter judgment at that point or choose to issue a written judgment at a later date.

Enforcing a Judgment

Following a money judgment, the person who is owed money is the judgment creditor. The person who owes money is the judgment debtor. The judgment creditor collects either money or the property from the debtor. The court does not collect the money for the creditor.

A judgment creditor has several ways to collect on the money judgment. They may discuss payment with the debtor and agree to a payment method. For example, they may agree to a lump sum or an installment plan.

If the debtor cannot or chooses not to satisfy the judgment, the judgment creditor may request assistance from the court. A creditor may contact the court clerk for information about the court's assistance. For example, the creditor may garnish the debtor's wages or bank account by filing a garnishment form. If they garnish a debtor's wages, the debtor's employer pays a portion of the employee's wages to the court, and the court then distributes it to the creditor.

The parties must inform the court when the debtor satisfies the judgment. For more information about garnishment and other methods of enforcing a judgment, consult this article by the Nebraska Judicial Branch.


Either party may appeal a small claims court judgment. You must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the judgment. A district court judge will hear and decide the appeal.

Questions? Contact an Attorney

Although parties to a small claims case may not hire an attorney to represent them in their small claims litigation, an attorney may still provide valuable legal advice to small claims litigants. If you are considering filing a small claims lawsuit, an attorney can provide legal advice about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and they may assist you in filling out the required court forms to file the case. Contact a civil litigation attorney if you have additional questions about Nebraska's small claims process.

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