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Wyoming Small Claims Courts

Wyoming's Circuit Courts hear small claims cases, which are civil disputes where the amount in controversy does not exceed $6,000. Parties to a small claims case in Wyoming don't need attorneys, but state law allows them to hire attorneys.

The following links provide more information and self-help resources for people involved in a small claims case:

This article describes Wyoming Circuit Courts and its small claims process. If you have further questions, contact a civil litigation attorney.

Wyoming Small Claims Court Explained

Wyoming designed its small claims court process to allow people to pursue or defend against a claim without hiring attorneys. The small claims trial follows informal court rules, procedures, and rules of evidence. A judge decides your small claims case.

The amount in controversy in a small claims case cannot exceed $6,000. If your claim exceeds $6,000, you can file it in the circuit court. But, by doing so, you waive your right to recover any amount over $6,000. You may also file a more than $6,000 claim in the district court.

Any adult, business, or corporation may file a small claims case. The person or entity that files the case is the plaintiff or claimant. The person or entity they sue is the defendant.

The small claims court is best suited for minor disputes that the parties do not believe need a jury trial or extended litigation. The small claims court offers a quick and inexpensive alternative to formal litigation in the district court.

What Is a Small Claims Case?

Small claims cases generally involve claims for money damages or debts. The circuit court has limited jurisdiction, meaning it can only hear certain civil cases. For example, the circuit court can hear the following types of disputes:

  • Claims involving a breach of contract where the plaintiff claims the defendant owes them money
  • Personal injury cases
  • Personal property damage

The Circuit Court can't hear the following types of disputes, among others:

If you have questions about whether your claim belongs in the small claims court, consider asking a civil litigation attorney for legal advice.

How To File a Small Claims Case

A plaintiff begins a small claims case by filing a Civil Cover Sheet, Small Claims Affidavit, and Small Claims Summons in an appropriate circuit court. The Small Claims Affidavit and Summons has the following information:

  • The parties to the small claims case
  • The amount of the claim
  • A brief description of the dispute and the legal basis of the plaintiff's claim

The plaintiff must pay a $10 filing fee when they file their small claims court case. If they win their case, the court may award the filing fee and other court costs as part of the judgment. These court costs do not count toward the $6,000 jurisdictional limit.

The forms you need to file your claim are available online or at your local courthouse. Contact the clerk of court at the clerk's office for help getting and filling out the forms.

Once you file your case, the court will set a small claims hearing date on its docket.

Where and When To File a Small Claims Case

The plaintiff must usually file a small claims case in the defendant's county. This ensures the circuit court has jurisdiction over the defendant. If the plaintiff doesn't file their case in a proper venue, the court can't hear the case.

But in some cases, the case's circumstances may allow the plaintiff to file in the county where their issue arose. For example, suppose the case involves property damage. In that case, the plaintiff may be able to file the case in the county where the damage allegedly happened.

Every civil claim has a statute of limitations, a period within which the plaintiff must file their claim. State law sets the statute of limitations for each claim, which varies based on the type of claim. The court can't hear a claim if its statute of limitations has run. Read FindLaw's Wyoming Civil Statute of Limitations Laws article for more specific information.

Serving the Defendant

The plaintiff must ensure that all the defendants get notice of the lawsuit. The service of process requires the plaintiff to have someone deliver several legal forms to the defendant. The court can't hear the case if the plaintiff does not serve the defendant properly.

The plaintiff must serve the defendant in a nine-day window before the small claims hearing. Specifically, the defendant must receive notice of the case between three to 12 days before the scheduled court date. The court will postpone the hearing if the defendant doesn't receive notice within that time.

The plaintiff has several options to ensure service, including the following:

  • They may ask the court clerk to prepare the court forms and mail them to the defendant via certified mail. The court will charge the plaintiff a service fee. This option is only available if the defendant lives in the same county as the courthouse.
  • They may contact the constable or sheriff's office and pay a fee to serve the defendant.
  • They may contact a private process server and pay them a fee to serve the defendant.

Contact the clerk's office for more information about serving the defendant. It can also provide information about how to prove to the court that you served the defendant.

Responding To a Small Claims Case

The defendant does not need to file a response or answer to the summons and complaint. If they deny the plaintiff's claims, they can appear at the scheduled hearing and present their arguments and defenses. If they agree with the plaintiff's claims, they can contact the plaintiff to try to resolve the case.

If the defendant has civil claims against the plaintiff, they may file a counterclaim. Contact the clerk's office if you have claims against the plaintiff and want to file a counterclaim.

Preparing For the Small Claims Hearing

All parties to the small claims case should prepare to attend the scheduled court date. Failing to appear may carry significant potential consequences.

For example, if the plaintiff does not appear, the court may dismiss their case. The court may enter a default judgment in the plaintiff's favor if the defendant doesn't appear. If the plaintiff gets a default judgment, they win the case, and the defendant must usually pay the claimed amount.

Before the small claims hearing, parties may gather all relevant evidence and secure witnesses to appear in court. Equal Justice Wyoming recommends bringing three copies of any evidence you intend to introduce at trial (a copy for the judge, the opposing party, and you).

Parties may also subpoena a witness to compel them to appear in court, produce documents, or both. Contact the clerk's office for more information about getting a subpoena.

The formal rules of evidence do not apply in a small claims court hearing. So, parties may bring any evidence they believe is relevant, and the judge will decide whether to admit or exclude it. Furthermore, the judge may choose to allow hearsay evidence, unlike a case in the district court.

The Small Claims Hearing

The plaintiff will present their arguments and evidence at the small claims hearing. They may also call witnesses to testify. If a party calls a witness to the stand, the opposing party can cross-examine the witness. Once the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant will present their defenses.

The plaintiff has the burden of proof in the small claims case. They must prove to the judge that the defendant is liable for the claimed relief. The burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. The defendant has the burden of proof on any counterclaim they may file.

After the trial, the judge presiding over the case will decide who wins, loses, and who owes whom money. They may decide the case immediately or issue a written judgment later. The court will mail a written judgment to each party.

Appeals

A party may appeal the small claims court's judgment. They can only appeal questions of law, not the sufficiency of the evidence. A party that wants to appeal must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the judgment's issuance.

Satisfying the Judgment

The judgment creditor is the person or entity that wins the small claims case and is owed money. The person or entity that owes the creditor money is the judgment debtor. The court is not a collections agency; its judgment is not an order requiring the debtor to pay the judgment. Instead, the judgment creditor handles collecting the money owed to them.

The creditor and debtor may discuss how to meet the judgment. Once the debtor pays some or all the judgment, the creditor must contact the clerk's office and endorse the payments on the court's docket. They must also sign a Satisfaction and Release when the debtor pays the amount in full. Failing to endorse any payment within 15 days of the payment will result in a misdemeanor charge and fines against the creditor.

The creditor has several options to enforce a judgment when the debtor can't or doesn't pay the judgment. For example, they can request the court's help with the following enforcement methods:

  • They may get a Writ of Execution, which allows the sheriff to levy or seize some of the debtor's property and sell it at an auction. The creditor may use the proceeds from the sale to satisfy the judgment.
  • They may get a post-judgment garnishment to help get the debtor's property.

If the parties can't resolve a post-judgment dispute about the satisfaction of the judgment, they may have no choice but to request the court's help. Requesting the court's help to satisfy the judgment is complicated and will cost extra fees and court costs.

Contact an Attorney

Small claims cases generally allow parties to represent themselves throughout the process. Although small claims cases involve relatively small amounts of money, the issues presented may include complex questions of law or fact. Consider contacting a civil litigation attorney in your area for help with your small claims dispute.

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