What Is North Dakota Small Claims Court?
Small claims is a summary dispute resolution process for certain types of civil claims between private citizens.
How Do I Make A Claim?
First, review all information on the North Dakota Supreme Court’s website. It’s an excellent resource, and it’s much more comprehensive than this article.
That said, here is a summary of the process. If you are making the claim, you are called the “plaintiff.” The person defending the claim is called the “defendant.” First, you complete the claim affidavit. The claim affidavit is an explanation for why you believe the defendant owes you money. This needs to be notarized. You serve the claim affidavit on the defendant. Defendant has 20 days to answer or remove to District Court (explained below). The defendant may also make a counterclaim against you if he or she believes you owe money. If an answer is filed, then the Small Claims Court will schedule the hearing where the judicial referee (usually) hears both sides and makes a decision.
What Is Removal?
Removal means the defendant has decided the North Dakota District Court should make the decision instead of North Dakota Small Claims Court.
Are There Risks To Removal?
Yes. If the defendant removes and you win, you are entitled to reasonable attorney fees.
Is There A Limit On Recovery In Small Claims Court?
Yes. As of 2019, the limit is $15,000.00.
Is It Appealable?
No. North Dakota Small Claims Court actions are not appealable. Their decision is final.
How Long Does It Take?
Usually, a hearing is scheduled within 30-60 days. A decision is usually given on the same day. Timing may vary across different small claims courts and depending on case volume.
Do I Have Other Options?
Yes. You can initiate an action in the proper North Dakota District Court. The downside is that District Court actions are more procedurally complicated than small claims actions. We recommend you hire an attorney to navigate an ordinary District Court action.
Shouldn’t You Be Talking Me Into Hiring You Instead?
Not necessarily. Sometimes hiring a lawyer is in your best interests. Sometimes it is not. If it is not, it’s usually because of a cost-efficiency issue. You do not want to pay a lawyer $25,000.00 to recover $15,000.00. We do our best to tell you upfront whether we believe it is cost-effective to hire us.
What Happens If The Defendant Doesn’t Show Up?
You will probably receive something called a “default judgment.” This means you win.
I Received A Judgment. Now What?
You may have to collect. This is probably best navigated with the help of an attorney. Contact us if you need help.