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Small Claims

A small claims case is a lawsuit where the claim for money is equal to or less than $10,000.   A small claims case is an informal lawsuit, in which lawyers are not allowed to be involved and the normal legal rules for lawsuits are relaxed.

Mediation Services  can be used by the parties to discuss out of court resolution of their dispute. 

To start a small claims case, the person making the claim (the "plaintiff") fills out a one page Claim and Notice of Claim.  The court has this form available for free.   The Claim contains a summary of the reason for the claim.   There is a  $57.00 filing fee paid to Justice Court. 

It is up to the Plaintiff to have the Defendant (the person allegedly owing the money) personally served with a copy of the Claim and Notice of Claim.   The Plaintiff cannot make this service, and most people ask the Sheriff to make this service.  

The Sheriff requires that the Plaintiff provide the Sheriff with a Sheriff's Instructions for Service form.

The Sheriff charges $45.00 to serve one or two people.  Sheriff's Fees  If the defendant is not personally served, but the papers are left at their residence, you need to mail the defendant a copy of the papers, and then file an affidavit with the court stating that you mailed the papers to the defendant on a certain date.

Once the defendant is served with the Claim and Notice of Claim, the defendant has 14 days to file an Answer.  An Answer denies all or part of the claim.  The defendant can also sue the plaintiff and this is called a "Counterclaim".   Forms are available from the court to file an Answer and/or a Counterclaim.   Once an Answer or Counterclaim is filed, the Court will schedule a trial. The filing fee for an Answer is $57.00.  A counterclaim has no fee in addition to the Answer fee of $57.00.

If the defendant does not file an Answer, after 14 days, the plaintiff can ask the court for a "default judgment", which means the plaintiff wins his or her money judgment automatically.   A form for the "default judgment" is available from the court.  

If a defendant is a member of the Armed Forces, the plaintiff has to comply with the Service Members Civil Relief Act (50 US Code Amended sections 501-596) and the new Oregon 2009 House Bill 2303, when seeking a default judgment.

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Court costs and fees ORS 20.190 provides for the court to award prevailing fees to the party who is awarded a judgment.  It is the policy of the court to award prevailing costs and fees.  See our fee schedule.

If the defendant files an Answer or Counterclaim, the court will schedule a mediation session and a trial and send both parties a trial notice. 

On the day of trial, the parties will meet with a trained, certified mediator.  The mediator assists the parties in talking about the facts of their case, and exploring a variety of possible solutions.  The parties are able to work towards a resolution of the dispute, without going to trial.   Mediation is an effective and useful tool to resolve conflict.  Local mediation services are offered by Conflict Solutions

At trial, it is up to the plaintiff to bring in witnesses and exhibits (papers, photos, etc) to prove their case.   That is, what are the facts showing that the judge should award money to the plaintiff.   The defendant can bring witnesses and exhibits to show the judge there are facts showing that the Plaintiff should NOT be awarded money.  Witnesses testify under oath, and both parties and the judge can ask the witness questions.

At the end of the trial, the Judge has to decide the issues of fact and the legal issues, and then decide which party should be awarded a money judgment.   In many cases, the Judge will make a decision by writing a letter to both parties. 

The law allows an appeal to Circuit Court for a brand new trial. The appealing party needs to obtain a bond for the amount of the money judgment entered against them, as part of the appeal process. Appeal Notice

Court policies and procedures

If the court awards a money judgment, it is up to the party receiving that money judgment to collect it from the other party.   A judgment can be collected by asking the court for a writ of garnishment against the judgment debtor's bank or employer.  In order to obtain a writ of garnishment, you will need to "transcribe" the judgment to the court's civil docket, for $9, and the writ of garnishment will cost another $20.   The Sheriff charges $25 to serve the writ on a bank or employer.  A bank will also require a  fee.   You should contact the bank to determine the fee.

To transcribe the judgment to Circuit Court, you will need to submit $18 to the Justice Court ($9 to move from the small claims to the civil docket, plus $9 for the transcript) and another $17 to Circuit Court for filing.   The Justice Court will forward the $17 along with the prepared transcription.

The court cannot give legal advice.  Legal advice includes helping you choose words to describe your claim, or tell you how much money you should ask for.   If you want legal advice, you can contact a lawyer, look up the law at the county library, or use a computer.  The Oregon State Bar has a web page which gives some directions for legal advice: Oregon State Bar.   Legal Aid Information. Legal Aid's phone number is 1-888-245-4091.

Small Claims Court video (Oregon State Bar)

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Small Claim complaint and Notice

Affidavit of Mailing

Answer and Counterclaim form 

Motion to Dismiss - claim satisfied

Default Judgment     Satisfaction of Judgment

Extension of Judgment

Fees   Appeal Notice

This page last updated January 03, 2018

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