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Nevada Small Claims Courts

Nevada's Justice Courts hear all small claims cases. These courts decide civil cases where the amount in dispute is $10,000 or less. Parties to a small claims case in Nevada may hire attorneys, but many litigants represent themselves.

The Justice Courts in Nevada have different rules depending on where the parties file their lawsuit. Specifically, the Las Vegas Justice Court and North Las Vegas Justice Court have different rules compared to non-Las Vegas courts, such as the Henderson Justice Court. Parties to a case must ensure they follow their specific court's rules when filing forms.

The following links may provide helpful information to someone involved in a small claims case:

  • Small Claims Court FAQ: The Clark County Justice Court answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the small claims court.
  • Small Claims Overview: Clark County provides several self-help resources to plaintiffs and defendants involved in a small claims case in the Las Vegas Justice Court. It provides information about the small claims process and links to downloadable court forms.
  • Small Claims Forms: This link provides all the forms parties to a small claims case may need. The forms needed may vary based on the county where the plaintiff files their lawsuit.
  • Filing Your Small Claims Case: The Civil Law Self-Help Center offers an in-depth guide to filing a small claims case. It also provides information about filing court forms.
  • Civil Law Self-Help Center: Nevada's self-help center provides information about Nevada's small claims process, including how to file a small claims case.
  • Nevada Court Directory: This document provides a directory of Nevada's courts.
  • Self-Help Videos: The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada provides a playlist of videos explaining the small claims court process.
  • Representing Yourself in Court: The Civil Law Self-Help Center offers a guide for representing yourself in court.
  • Free Legal Classes: The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and the UNLV William S. Boyd Law School provide free information classes designed to help litigants prevail in their cases.
  • Small Claims Process Flowcharts: The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada offers flowcharts explaining how a small claims case works in the Las Vegas Justice Court and other courts.
  • N.R.S., Chapter 73: This link provides the laws governing Nevada's small claims courts.

This article describes Nevada's small claims court process. For more information, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney.

Nevada Small Claims Courts Explained

Any person over 18 may file a small claims case in Nevada. The state's Justice Courts hear all small claims cases. Nevada has 43 Justice Courts. Nevada's District Courts hear all appeals from the Justice Courts. A Justice of the Peace presides over all small claims cases.

The Justice Courts may only award money in small claims cases. Therefore, litigants may not ask the court to return property or request another person or entity to do or not do something. The Justice Courts may award up to $10,000.

The Justice Courts do not follow formal rules of evidence and civil procedure. Their simplified court rules allow litigants to represent themselves instead of hiring attorneys. A party may hire an attorney, but the Justice Court cannot require the losing party to pay the prevailing party's attorney's fees. Therefore, a party who hires an attorney must factor the attorney's fees into their small claims case calculation.

The Justice Court has limited jurisdiction. It may hear the following types of cases:

  • Disputes regarding payment
  • Contract disputes
  • Personal injury claims
  • Property damage

As noted above, the Justice Court may only award money to the prevailing party. If the claim involves over $10,000, a party may still file it in small claims court. However, if they choose to do so, they waive their right to recover over $10,000.

The person or entity that files a small claims case is the plaintiff. The person or entity against whom they file the lawsuit is the defendant. The plaintiffs and defendants in a lawsuit are known as parties to the lawsuit.

Before You File

Before someone files their small claims lawsuit, they must try to resolve their dispute with the potential defendant. A plaintiff must send the defendant(s) a demand letter by certified mail with a return receipt requested before they file their case. In the letter, the plaintiff must state the amount of money they believe the defendant owes them and the basis for their claim. The letter informs the potential defendant that the plaintiff intends to file a small claims case if they cannot resolve it outside of court.

The demand letter must state how long the defendant has to respond. Typically, a defendant has 10 or 15 days from the date of the letter to either pay the requested amount or contact the plaintiff to negotiate the dispute. A plaintiff may not file their small claims case until the defendant has had a chance to respond.

The parties may also try to mediate their dispute before going to court. Nevada's Neighborhood Justice Center (NJC) offers free mediation to anyone with a dispute. Mediation involves using a neutral third party who tries to help the parties reach an amicable solution to their issues. The court may require parties to participate in mediation, so parties may want to try it before the case officially begins.

How To File a Small Claims Case

A plaintiff in Nevada begins their small claims case by filing a Small Claims Affidavit of Complaint form, or complaint, with the court. The plaintiff must also file a copy of their demand letter and proof that they mailed it to the defendant. As noted above, the small claims complaint form differs depending on the township where the plaintiff files their claim. If the plaintiff files their case anywhere other than Las Vegas, they must also prepare a Civil Cover Sheet.

The complaint identifies the party to the lawsuit. It is important that the plaintiff lists the defendant's correct contact information. Like the demand letter, the plaintiff must state the amount of money they believe the defendant owes them. They must also describe why they believe the defendant owes them money.

The small claims complaint is available online or at your local courthouse. The court clerk may assist plaintiffs in filling out the form, but they may not offer legal advice.

The court will charge the plaintiff a filing fee when they file their small claims complaint. The fee amount depends on how much money the plaintiff claims and ranges between $66 and $196. If the plaintiff cannot afford the filing fee, they may request a fee waiver. The court clerk can provide more information about fee waivers.

Once the court accepts the complaint, it will set a court date and assign a case number.

Venue

The plaintiff must file their small claims case in a proper venue. This means they must file the lawsuit in a court with jurisdiction over the defendant. In practice, this means the plaintiff must file their case in one of the following townships:

  • Where the defendant lives
  • Where the defendant works
  • Where the defendant does business
  • If the case involves a personal injury, where the injury occurred
  • If the case involves a contract, where the alleged breach occurred or was supposed to occur

Failing to file the case in a proper venue may result in the court dismissing your case. This can cause extra expense to the plaintiff because they will have to file their case in a different court.

Time Limit to File

A plaintiff must file their claim within a specified time limit known as the statute of limitations. The court will only accept the claim if the plaintiff files their claim before the statute of limitations runs. The statute of limitations differs depending on the type of claim and state law sets it. You can find most statutes of limitation in Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), Chapter 11.

Serving the Defendant

Once the plaintiff files their complaint, they must serve it on the defendant. This provides the defendant notice of the lawsuit so they can prepare for the small claims hearing.

Nevada law requires someone who is not a party to the small claims case to serve the defendant. Plaintiffs may contact the sheriff's office, the constable, or a private process server to serve the defendant. The plaintiff will likely have to pay a service fee to ensure proper service. The person who serves the defendant must file an affidavit stating they served the defendant, or they may file a Proof of Service form with the court.

The defendant must receive notice of the lawsuit at least 10 days before the scheduled court hearing. If the defendant is not served correctly, the court will not hear the case and may dismiss it.

Responding to a Small Claims Case

A defendant who receives notice of a small claims case against them may take several different actions.

The defendant may choose to pay the plaintiff the requested amount of money. They may also contact the plaintiff and attempt to settle the case. If the parties settle the case, they must prepare a written settlement agreement and inform the court.

A defendant does not need to file an answer to the plaintiff's complaint. If they disagree with the plaintiff's claim, they should plan on attending the small claims hearing.

If a defendant has a claim against the plaintiff, they may file a counterclaim against them. For example, they may file a counterclaim if the defendant believes the plaintiff owes them money. The defendant must serve the counterclaim on the plaintiff before the small claims hearing.

A defendant may also file a Motion to Dismiss the plaintiff's claim if they believe it is legally defective. For example, if the complaint requests that the defendant return property to the plaintiff, the defendant may try to dismiss the case because the small claims court cannot order someone to return property.

The Small Claims Hearing

The parties should plan to appear in court on their small claims hearing date, as failing to appear will have a significant effect on their case. If the defendant fails to appear, the court may enter a default judgment in the plaintiff's favor. The court will often enter a money judgment in that case, and the defendant will have to pay the plaintiff the amount of the money they claimed. If the plaintiff fails to appear, the court may dismiss the case.

Before the hearing, parties may gather evidence to present at the hearing. For example, if the dispute arose due to property damage, the plaintiff may introduce photographs of the damage or estimates for repair costs. For contract disputes, the parties may bring a copy of the contract.

The parties may also bring witnesses to testify at the hearing. If a witness does not willingly appear to testify, a party may request a subpoena to order them to testify.

At the hearing, the plaintiff will present their arguments first. Once the plaintiff finishes their argument, the defendant presents their side of the case. The plaintiff has the burden of proof in the case.

The Justice of the Peace may enter their judgment right after the case, or they may take time to decide it. Their decision is called an order.

Appeals

Either party that disagrees with the order may appeal it. Parties generally have five days from the judgment date to file a Notice of Appeal. A district court judge will review and decide the appeal.

Enforcing a Judgment

The party who won the case and is owed money is responsible for collecting the judgment. This person is the judgment creditor. The person or entity that owes money is the judgment debtor.

A judgment creditor may collect the judgment in several ways. They may communicate with the judgment debtor to determine how they will make payment. They can agree to a lump sum, an installment plan, or another method.

If the judgment debtor cannot or does not pay the judgment, the judgment debtor may do several things. One option is to garnish the debtor's wages. The creditor may request a Writ of Garnishment from the court, which allows the creditor to garnish the debtor's wages or bank accounts.

The judgment creditor may also file a Writ of Execution. This Writ allows the sheriff or constable to seize some of the debtor's property and sell it to satisfy the judgment.

For more information about enforcing a judgment, read the Civil Law Self-Help Center's guide to collecting a judgment.

Questions? Contact an Attorney

Parties to a Nevada small claims case do not need an attorney. However, they may hire an attorney if they wish. Although such cases often involve a minor amount of money, they may involve complex issues of law and fact. If you are suing someone in small claims, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney. An experienced attorney can provide helpful legal advice in your small claims case.

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