SMALL CLAIMS FAQ'S

  1. What is the difference between a small claims case and a civil case?
  2. What are the general types of cases filed in small claims court?
  3. What does it cost to file a small claims case?
  4. How do I file a small claims complaint?
  5. Can I file a small claims complaint on-line?
  6. How is the complaint served?
  7. What is an "answer", and what is the timeframe for filing it?
  8. Is there a fee for filing the answer?
  9. What is a counterclaim?
  10. What happens if the defendant(s) does not file the answer?
  11. When is the hearing scheduled?
  12. What happens at trial?
  13. What happens if the plaintiff or defendant does not appear at trial?
  14. Can the court's decision be changed or appealed?


  1. What is the difference between a small claims case and a civil case?
  2. Small Claims cases are for filings where you are suing another party for less than $2500. Civil filings address claims up to $10,000. Small claims procedures are simplified and parties are not represented by an attorney. However, attorneys may be allowed to participate if all parties agree. In addition, the parties in small claims matters are generally not represented by an attorney. The hearing officer's decision in a small claims case is final and cannot be appealed.

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  3. What are the general types of cases filed in small claims court?
    • money debts
    • personal injury
    • property damage
    • contracts
  4. What does it cost to file a small claims case?
  5. The filing fee is $34.00.

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  6. How do I file a small claims complaint?
  7. You can obtain the complaint and summons form at the court located at 160 N Stone Ave. Tucson AZ 85701. Request a small claims packet from the clerk which will include the form and instructions. Read the information thoroughly and then complete the form. Once complete, the clerk will process the complaint and your filing fee.

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  8. Can I file a small claims complaint on-line?
  9. Yes. Our web address is www.jp.pima.gov. Under the heading Small Claims Filings, click "file On-Line". Once you have accessed this page, click on the "INFO" button and you will be provided with more instructions on how to proceed.

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  10. How is the complaint served?
  11. The "summons and complaint" must be served on each named defendant. It may be served by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. Always request restricted delivery to ensure that the named party signs the return receipt. Service is considered complete when the defendant signs for it upon delivery. The return receipt must then be filed with the court so we have a record that service is complete. If the claim is against a corporation, the statutory agent or an officer of the corporation must be served by registered or certified mail.

    You can also have the complaint served by a constable or process server. A fee will be charged for this service. The telephone number for the constable's office is 520-724-5442. Process servers may be located in the telephone directory.

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  12. What is an "answer", and what is the timeframe for filing it?
  13. An answer is the response that is filed by the individual you are suing. The answer must be filed within 20 days from the date the individual receives the complaint.

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  14. Is there a fee for filing the answer?
  15. Yes. The filing fee is $14.00.

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  16. What is a counterclaim?
  17. In addition to filing an answer, the defendant can file a counterclaim. This means that s/he is also filing a suit against you. Should this occur, the complaint will be served upon you in the same manner described above and you must file an answer to the counterclaim.

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  18. What happens if the defendant(s) does not file the answer?
  19. If any named party in the action fails to answer within 20 days, an Application for Default Judgment can be filed. The defendant will have 10 business days to respond. If no response is filed, judgment by default may be entered. The court will still accept the answer if filed prior to entry of the judgment.

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  20. When is the hearing scheduled?
  21. The hearing is scheduled within 60 days from the date the answer is filed. Both parties will be notified by mail of the date and time. If either party wishes to reschedule the hearing date, a Request for Continuance must be filed with the court. This form may be obtained at the court or on-line.

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  22. What happens at trial?
  23. Both parties will appear before the hearing officer and testify. Hearings are usually scheduled for 30 minutes. The court will also hear the defendant's counterclaim if one has been filed. After both parties have presented their witnesses, testimony and evidence, the hearing officer will make a decision, called a judgment. In most cases, the judgment is announced at the hearing but the judge has 5 business days to consider the evidence and make the decision. In this case, the parties would be notified by mail of the decision.

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  24. What happens if the plaintiff or defendant does not appear at trial?
  25. If the defendant fails to appear the hearing officer may hear testimony from the plaintiff and witnesses, examine the evidence and enter a judgment against the defendant. If the plaintiff fails to appear, the hearing officer will most likely dismiss the case. If both parties fail to appear the case will be dismissed.

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  26. Can the court's decision be changed or appealed?
  27. No. However, if either party thinks the judgment was entered in error, or if there was good reason for one of the parties not appearing in court, that party may file a Motion to Vacate Judgment asking the court to set the decision aside or vacate it. The court will review the motion and notify the parties of its decision.

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