Frequently Asked Questions About Small Claims
- What cases can be heard in small claims court?
- Where do I file?
- Should I file a small claims action?
- What are the filing fees?
- What if I cannot afford the filing fees?
- Who do I need to sue?
- Can I sue multiple defendants through a single complaint?
- Can a party file multiple actions against a single defendant?
- Do I need to hire an attorney?
- Are attorneys’ fees recoverable in small claims court?
- Is there any particular time in which I must file my complaint?
- Is there any alternative to filing a small claims action?
- How do I file a small claims complaint?
- Is there anything that I need to do before filing a small claims complaint?
- How do I serve the complaint?
- What if I cannot serve the defendant personally with the complaint?
- When must the defendant be served with the complaint?
- Is there a right to a jury trial in small claims court?
- Can punitive damages be awarded?
- Can damages for emotional distress or pain and suffering be awarded?
- What do I do if I have been sued in small claims court?
- Can a defendant file a counterclaim?
- What if the defendant filed a new action instead of a counterclaim?
- Must the counterclaim be served?
- How do I postpone the trial change the trial date?
- What if I or one of my witnesses needs a foreign language interpreter?
- What do I do if I need information from the other party or someone else or I need someone to testify on my behalf?
- How do I prepare for my trial?
- Who will hear my small claims case?
- What will happen at my small claims hearing?
- What happens if I fail to appear at my trial?
- How can I collect my small claims judgment?
- What do I do if I disagree with the decision made in my case?
- What is the procedure for filing a formal objection to a small claims judgment?
- What is the standard of review at the formal objection hearing?
- What is the deadline in which to appeal a small claims action to district court?
- Must the appealing party post a bond to appeal to district court?
- What rules apply to small claims appeals?
The court has power to hear cases where the amount of money in dispute is $5,000 or less. Cases in which the plaintiff is seeking a court order to require the defendant to do something or to prevent the defendant from doing something cannot be filed in small claims court.
You need to file in the justice court of the township where the defendant currently resides, does business in, or is employed. Small claims matters are heard in all 11 Justice Courts:
- Las Vegas Justice Court, 200 Lewis Ave., Las Vegas, Nevada 89155 (702) 671-4528
- N. Las Vegas Justice Court, 2428 MLK Blvd., NLV, NV 89032 (702) 455-7801
- Henderson Justice Court, 243 Water St., Henderson, NV 89015, (702) 455-7951
- Boulder Justice Court 505 Avenue G Boulder City, Nevada 89005 (702) 455-8000
- Bunkerville Justice Court 190 Virgin Street Bunkerville, Nevada 89007 (702) 346-5711
- Goodsprings Justice Court 1 Main Street, Jean, Nevada 89019 (702) 874-1405
- Laughlin Justice Court 101 Civic Way Suite 2 Laughlin, Nevada 89029 (702) 298-4622
- Mesquite Justice Court 500 Hillside Drive Mesquite, Nevada 89027 (702) 346-5298
- Moapa Justice Court 1340 East Street, Highway 168 Moapa, Nevada 89025 (702) 864-2333
- Moapa Valley Justice Court 320 Moapa Valley Boulevard Overton, Nevada 89040
- Searchlight Justice Court 1090 Cottonwood Cove Road Searchlight, Nevada 89046 (702) 297-1252
This is a decision that only you can make although you may wish to Speak to a Lawyer before taking this step. One factor that is worth consideration is whether or not you believe that you will be able to collect your judgment if you prevail. See How to Collect a Judgment for what it may take to collect your judgment if the defendant does not pay you voluntarily.
For help in deciding whether to sue, you can sign up for the free Small Claims Court class offered by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and UNLV Boyd School of Law.
The Filing Fee depends on the amount of money being sued for in your complaint:
- For suit amounts from $ .00 to $1,000.00, the fee is:………………………………$46.00
- For suit amounts from $1,000.01 to $2,500.00, the fee is: …………………………$66.00
- For suit amounts from $2,500.01 to $5,000.00, the fee is: …………………………$86.00
Filing fees are due at time of filing. Payment may be made by cash, VISA©, MASTERCARD®, ATM and Debit cards, personal check, money order, or cashier’s check.
If you can establish that you are truly unable to afford the filing fees, you can file a Fee Waiver Application. If the court signs an Order granting your Fee Waiver Application, you will be permitted to proceed in your case without having to pay the filing fees and the costs associated with serving your complaint.
Identifying the proper defendant(s) may be more difficult than you might think particularly if you are suing a business. If you are suing a business, it is important to obtain the name the name of the business and its owners from the business licensing departments. You should then determine the nature of the entity you are filing your claim against since there are several ways that businesses may be organized (ie corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, etc…).
To sue a sole proprietor, you sue the business’ owner regardless of what the business is called. To sue a partnership you should get the names of the partners. To sue a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC), on the other hand, you file against the corporation or LLC as these are considered separate legal entities.
Multiple defendants may be sued in a single action provided that there is asserted against them any right to relief in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action. You may not, however, recover more than $5,000 through a single complaint.
Yes, however, a party may not file multiple actions in order to collect a single debt. Such actions must be combined and any amount in excess of $5,000 must be waived by the plaintiff for his or her claim to be heard. See JCRCP 88
No. Small claims court is intended for people without attorneys. While you can hire an attorney if you wish, you are not required to do so.
No. Although the court must award court costs to the prevailing party, attorneys’ fees are not allowed except in very limited circumstances.
All civil actions are subject to a statute of limitations which sets forth the time in which legal proceedings must be commenced. In order to determine the amount of time in which your action must be filed, you may wish to refer to Chapter 11 of the Nevada Revised Statutes.
If you are considering filing a small claims case, you may be interested in taking advantage of a FREE time saving alternative, called the Neighborhood Justice Center. The Center’s personalized no cost mediation service may help you resolve the dispute more quickly than through the court. You will also have more control over the outcome.
Complete the Small Claims Affidavit of Complaint and bring or mail, with a self-addressed stamped envelope, at least 2 copies of this to the court clerk’s office with your filing fees. The complaint should be typed or written clearly.
First, demand payment. A letter sent by certified mail will serve as proof that payment has been demanded. Allow sufficient time for a reply, such as 10 days.
After you have filed the complaint, you must have it served on the defendant. You cannot do this yourself. While there are a number of businesses who will do this for a fee, you may also enlist anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case to serve the complaint.
If the defendant is a person, the complaint must be served on the defendant personally or left at the defendant’s home with some person of “suitable age and discretion” who lives there. If the defendant is a corporation or LLC, the complaint may be served on the president or other head of the corporation, secretary, cashier, managing agent, or resident agent.
If you do not serve the defendant within 1 year, the complaint is to be dismissed without prejudice meaning that you could re-file your complaint at a later time if the statute of limitations permits.
You may file a motion in which you ask that the court allow you to serve the defendant by certified mail.
At least 10 days before the trial date.
No. In 2005, the Nevada Supreme Court found that small claims court exists to provide speedy and effective resolutions of disputes where the sum in controversy is minimal. Nevada’s Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure state that small claims trials should be “informal, with the sole object of dispensing fair and speedy justice between the parties.” Therefore, Nevada’s Constitution does not include a right to a jury trial in small claims court proceedings.
Yes. Punitive damages (damages that do not compensate a plaintiff for any actual loss that he suffered) may be awarded in cases other than those for breach of contract if the plaintiff proves that the defendant was guilty of “oppression, fraud, or malice . . .” NRS 42.005(1) The amount of punitive damages to be awarded is to be determined in a subsequent proceeding. The total award must still be within the $5,000 limit.
Yes, subject to the jurisdictional limit.
Unlike in other types of legal actions, you need not file anything if you wish to defend a small claims lawsuit. Rather, you simply need to appear at your trial and present your defense at that time.
Yes. A defendant may file a counterclaim. The counterclaim cannot be filed for an amount greater than $5,000.
Rather than having 2 separate hearings, the court can order the cases consolidated when common questions of law or fact are involved. See JCRCP 42
The counterclaim should be served in the same manner as a small claims complaint.
Either party may request a continuance by filing a Motion To Continue. Until the court has granted your motion, your trial date remains as scheduled.
You should make arrangements to have an interpreter available as the court is not obligated to provide a foreign language interpreter. Any disinterested third party may act as an interpreter or you may request interpreter services through the court interpreter’s office at (702) 671-4581.
What do I do if I need information from the other party or someone else or I need someone to testify on my behalf?
If you need information or testimony from someone and they are not willing to provide this voluntarily, you may seek to have the court issue a Subpoena to compel the person to supply you with what documents or to testify at the trial.
Small claims court hearings are informal but you must be prepared to present your case. Before you go to court, prepare a list of facts you wish to present. Organize your presentation as clearly and completely as possible so you will not forget important facts and details. See Tips for Representing Yourself in Court for more information.
Be sure to bring to court all evidence, such as receipts, repair bills, estimates, and other items that you believe helps to prove your claim. Prepare at least 2 copies of any written materials that you intend to rely on at your hearing as you will need to give a copy to both the judge and the opposing party.
Your witnesses should all be present and ready to testify. Written statements and affidavits of persons not present in court hay prove to be of little or no value.
It depends on where you file. In the Las Vegas Justice Court, your small claims hearing will be heard by a referee. In every other justice court in Clark County, an elected Justice of the Peace will hear your case. Whether or a referee or a Justice of the Peace presided over your case is important if you disagree with the decision reached (see What do I do if I disagree with the decision made in my case? ).
Your hearing will take place in a courtroom with many people who also have been scheduled for that day. First, the clerk will call the roll from the docket to see who is in attendance. Once this is complete, cases where only one party has checked in may be dealt with (ie if only the plaintiff appears, they may receive a “default judgment” and if only the defendant appears, the case may be dismissed). It is important to not be late, because if you arrive after the role call your case may already be closed!
At this point, there may be a brief presentation by the Neighborhood Justice Center which offers free mediations. You may choose to elect to try to have your dispute mediated at that time. If you do so, you will still be permitted to continue on with your hearing if you and the opposing party are unable to come to an agreement.
When your Case number and name is called, you and the other party in your case will move to the front of the courtroom and tell your stories to the judge. The plaintiff will be permitted to speak first and can present documents and call witnesses to testify. The defendant will then be given a chance to do the same.
After both sides have presented their arguments, the judge may ask questions or allow cross-examination. The judge will then issue a decision or may take the case “under advisement.” This means the decision is pending while the judge considers the facts, or researches questions of law. A written decision will later be mailed to the parties.
If you are the plaintiff and you do not appear, your case may be dismissed. If you are the defendant and fail to appear, the court may award a “default” judgment against you.
As noted above, the court does not collect your judgment for you. However, there are a number of devices by which you can collect a judgment. See Collecting A Judgment for more information.
This depends on whether or not your case was heard by a referee or a Justice of the Peace. If a referee heard your case, as is typical in the Las Vegas Justice Court, you may file a formal objection. If a Justice of the Peace heard your case, you may file an appeal.
If your small claims case was heard by a referee, which is likely the case only in the Las Vegas Justice Court, any party who disagrees with the decision may file a “formal objection” with the justice court within 5 days of receiving the judgment. No bond is required. NRS 4.355(4).
If a timely objection is not filed, the Court will automatically accept the referee’s findings, and the referee’s decision will become a judgment. At that time, copies of the final judgment can be obtained at the Justice Court Clerk’s Office.
The court reviews the case “de novo”, meaning that the parties have an entirely new hearing.
The party must appeal from the judgment to the district court within 5 days from the entry of the judgment (i.e. within 5 days after the 5 day objection period lapsed or 5 days after a justice of the peace affirmed/reversed the referee’s recommendations). JCRCP 98
Yes. Bond of at least $250 must be posted unless the court orders otherwise. If the defendant is appealing and he wants to stay execution of the judgment, he must post the judgment amount, including costs and interest, unless the court orders otherwise.
The party is subject to the district court’s rules which may vary by department. The review on an appeal to district court will be subject to a different standard than the objection hearing and the court will accept all findings of fact that are based on substantial evidence as conclusive.