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Utah Small Claims Courts

In Utah, a small claims case is a civil action where the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) seeks an amount of money that does not exceed $15,000. Plaintiffs file their cases in a Justice Court, except in Cache County. The Justice Courts allow parties to resolve their civil disputes quickly and inexpensively compared to a District Court case.

The following links provide self-help resources and additional information about small claims cases in Utah:

This article describes small claims cases in Utah. For more information, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney near you.

Utah's Justice Courts and Small Claims Cases Explained

Utah does not technically have a small claims court. Instead, the state's Justice Courts hear small claims cases. Small claims cases are certain civil claims where the plaintiff seeks money, and the claim does not exceed a maximum amount of money. Utah law defines small claims as follows:

  • Civil claims filed on or after May 4, 2022, through December 31, 2024, that do not exceed $15,000, including attorney's fees but excluding court costs and interest
  • Civil claims filed on or after January 1, 2025, through December 31, 2029, that do not exceed $20,000, including attorney's fees but excluding court costs and interest
  • Civil claims filed on or after January 1, 2030, that do not exceed $25,000, including attorney's fees but excluding court costs and interest

The Justice Courts follow simplified court rules, procedures, and rules of evidence compared to higher Utah courts. This allows many parties to represent themselves without an attorney's assistance. Parties may hire attorneys to represent them if they so desire.

Types of Claims

Only certain civil claims qualify as small claims cases that the Justice Courts may hear. For example, the following are claims the Justice Courts may adjudicate:

The Justice Courts cannot hear the following types of claims:

  • Evictions
  • Actions in which the government is the defendant (the person or entity the plaintiff is suing)
  • Claims that ask the court to order someone to do (or stop doing) something (e.g., return personal property)

If you are unsure whether your claim qualifies as a small claims case, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney near you.

How To File a Small Claims Case

Before the plaintiff files their case, they must determine whether the court in which they will file uses Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). ODR allows litigants to communicate online and try to settle before the small claims hearing. A court facilitator works with the parties as they attempt to reach an amicable resolution to their case.

Whether the court uses ODR will determine the forms the plaintiff needs to file to begin their case. This link lists the courts that use ODR.

A plaintiff must file their case in an appropriate county. Usually, they must file their case in the county where the defendant lives.

They can also file the case where the cause of action arose. For example, if the dispute revolves around an unperformed contract, the plaintiff could file the case in the county where the defendant was supposed to perform their contractual obligation. If the case involves a car accident, they could file in the county where it occurred.

Plaintiffs should file their case in a city or town Justice Court if one is available. If no such court is available, they should file in a county Justice Court. If there is no county Justice Court, they should file in the county District Court. If either party wants a jury trial, they must request to move the case to District Court.

Filing in a Court That Uses ODR

A plaintiff filing in a Justice Court that uses ODR begins their small claims action by completing the following court forms:

For more information about filling out the ODR forms, read Utah's article on ODR. If the plaintiff has a valid reason for not using ODR, such as a disability, they can request the court to excuse them from ODR.

Once the plaintiff completes the forms, they may file them with the Justice Court. The court will charge a filing fee. If you cannot afford the filing fee, ask the court clerk if you qualify for a fee waiver.

If you win your case, the court may award your court filing fees in the judgment.

Filing in a Court That Does Not Use ODR

If your court does not use ODR, you must file the following forms to begin your small claims case:

The plaintiff may file the forms with the court clerk at the Justice Court. The court will charge a filing fee. If you believe you qualify, you may file a fee waiver. Contact the court clerk for more information about waiving the fee.

When To File a Claim

All civil claims in Utah have a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a period within which the plaintiff must file their claim. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of claim you have. Read FindLaw's article on Utah's Civil Statute of Limitations Laws for more information.

Serving the Defendant

Once the plaintiff files their claim, they must notify all defendants of the lawsuit. The court clerk will create copies of the documents and assign a case number to the claim. It's the plaintiff's responsibility to ensure the defendant receives the documents before the small claims hearing.

A plaintiff has several options to serve the defendant. Note that plaintiffs themselves cannot serve the defendant; someone else must serve the documents on the defendant. The most common service methods include the following:

  • Contact the sheriff's office and pay them a service fee. They will serve the defendant and fill out a Proof of Service form. The plaintiff must file the Proof of Service with the court.
  • Contact a private process server to serve the defendant personally.
  • Mail the documents to the defendant via certified mail with a return receipt requested or any other method that requires the defendant to sign upon delivery.
  • The plaintiff can contact the defendant and ask if they accept service. If they agree to accept service, the plaintiff can deliver the documents to them via any method to which they both agree. The defendant must fill out an Acceptance of Service form and file it with the court to use this method.

Regardless of the method chosen, the plaintiff must fill out and file a Proof of Service form once they receive notice of service. Failing to file the Proof of Service may result in delays and extra expenses to the plaintiff.

For information about how to serve someone who is on active military duty or in another state or country, read the Judicial Branch of Utah's article on the service of process.

Responding to a Small Claims Case

How a defendant responds to a small claims case depends on whether or not the plaintiff filed in a court that uses ODR. The forms the defendant received should indicate the requirements to respond to the case.

Failing to respond to the plaintiff's case may impact the defendant's case. For example, if the court does not receive a response from the defendant, it may enter a default judgment. A default judgment in the plaintiff's favor means they win the case. If they win their case, the defendant must pay the plaintiff their claimed amount of money.

If the defendant has claims against the plaintiff, they may file a counterclaim. To do so, they must fill out and file the following documents:

The counterclaim must arise out of the same cause of action the plaintiff brings. For example, if the plaintiff sues the defendant for an alleged breach of contract and the defendant has a claim involving that same contract against the plaintiff, they may file a counterclaim. If the defendant's claim is unrelated to the contract, they may not file a counterclaim, although they may consider filing a separate small claims case.

Responding to a Case Filed in a Court Using ODR

If the plaintiff files in a court that uses ODR, the documents will request that you sign up for ODR. Visit and the ODR website for more information.

A defendant who cannot use ODR may request that the court excuse them from using it. The following reasons may allow a defendant to opt out of using ODR:

  • They need ADA assistance
  • They do not speak English
  • They do not have access to the internet

If the defendant does not sign up for ODR within 14 days of service, they may automatically lose the case. They must read the documents carefully and register for ODR if required.

Once the defendant registers for ODR, they must work with a court facilitator to try and settle the case. If the plaintiff does not respond to the defendant's settlement negotiations, the defendant may request the court to dismiss the case.

Responding to a Case Filed in a Court That Does Not Use ODR

The defendant does not need to file a formal answer to the plaintiff's claims. The court assumes the defendant denies the plaintiff's claims unless the defendant says otherwise.

The documents the defendant receives will notify them of a pending small claims hearing. The defendant should plan on attending the scheduled hearing. Failing to appear may result in a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Before the Small Claims Hearing

The parties may settle their dispute before the scheduled trial date. If they settle their case, they must inform the court clerk of the settlement.

While preparing for their court date, the parties may secure evidence and witnesses to testify at trial. In a contract dispute, for example, they may want to secure copies of relevant documents to introduce as evidence. They may want to bring medical records and bills in a personal injury case.

All parties to a small claims case must attend the small claims hearing. If the plaintiff does not appear, the court will likely dismiss their case. The court may enter a default judgment in the plaintiff's favor if the defendant does not appear.

If either party knows they cannot attend the small claims court hearing, they may request the court to continue it to a later date. A party must file the following documents to request a continuance:

A party requesting a continuance must make their request at least five days before the trial.

The Small Claims Court Hearing

On the day of trial, the plaintiff will present their evidence and arguments first. They may introduce evidence and call witnesses to testify. If a party calls a witness, the opposing party will have an opportunity to cross-examine said witness. Once the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant will present their defenses and any counterclaims they may have.

A judge will preside over the small claims court hearing. When the hearing concludes, the judge will decide who wins and who loses. They may issue their decision then or take up to 60 days to issue their decision. Their decision is called a judgment.


Any party may appeal the judge's decision. Although it is called an appeal, the appealing party technically must request a new trial. The appealing party must file the following documents to begin the process:

The appealing party must file the above documents within 28 days of the judgment's date. The District Court will examine the case with a trial de novo. Therefore, the Justice Court's decision will not influence the District Court case.

Satisfying the Judgment

The judgment creditor is the party that prevails in the Justice Court and is owed money. The party that owes money is the judgment debtor. The judgment creditor is responsible for collecting the money from the judgment debtor. The court will not collect the money for you.

The parties may discuss how the debtor will pay the creditor. Once the debtor satisfies the judgment in full, the creditor must file a Satisfaction of Judgment form with the court.

If the debtor does not pay the creditor, the creditor has several options to enforce the judgment. These options include the following:

  • They can obtain a Writ of Execution, which allows the sheriff to seize non-exempt property from the debtor and sell it at public auction. The creditor may use the proceeds from the auction to satisfy the judgment.
  • They can obtain a Writ of Garnishment, which allows them to garnish the debtor's wages or bank accounts to satisfy the judgment.
  • They can obtain a lien on some of the debtor's property. If the debtor sells the property, the creditor may use the proceeds to satisfy the judgment.

These collection methods involve several steps and may require the creditor to obtain legal assistance. Contact a civil litigation attorney near you if the debtor does not satisfy the judgment.

Contact an Attorney

Although Utah designed its Justice Courts to allow parties to resolve their legal disputes without an attorney, small claims cases can involve complicated legal and factual questions. If you have a small claims case or are defending against one, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney near you for legal advice.

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