Oklahoma Small Claims Law
Small Claims – General – Oklahoma
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law and procedures of small claims in Oklahoma, but it does contain basic and other information. This summary only discusses civil claims (property and money claims that may be filed in small claims court. Criminal charges are not discussed.
Definition - Small claims courts, also sometimes called “Peoples Court”, is a court of limited jurisdiction. Limited jurisdiction means only certain matters may be filed and heard by the small claims court. There is also a maximum claim amount limitation. Small claims court offer a quick, informal and inexpensive way of resolving many types of disputes you may have with particular individuals or companies.
Maximum Amount of Claim Small Claims Court may hear in Oklahoma: $4,500.00
Which Court hears small claims in Oklahoma? The District Court of Oklahoma has jurisdiction to hear all small claims actions.
Who hears the claims in small claims court? The proceedings are conducted by a judge.
Claims over which the Small Claims Court has Jurisdiction:
The small claims court in Oklahoma may hear any of the following claims if the amount in controversy does not exceed $4,500.00:
1. recovery of money based on contract or tort, including subrogation claims
2. actions to replevy personal property
3. action in the nature of interpleader as provided in Section 2022
4. The above list is not exhaustive but does contain most of the common claims. The following claims MAY NOT be filed in small claims court: libel, slander, professional malpractice, assigned claims, and punitive damages.
Who may file a claim in small claims court? An individual, partnership or corporation (or LLC) may file a claim against another individual(s), partnership or corporation (or LLC) in small claims court if jurisdiction exists to hear the claim and the amount of the claim or property involved does not exceed $4,500.00.
Must you be represented by an attorney? Generally, an attorney is not needed. However, the parties may hire attorneys to litigate on their behalf if they desire to do so.
Things to do before you File a Claim: Get the facts straight so you can complete the forms correctly and answer any questions court personnel may need to know. Be sure to obtain the correct legal name of the defendant, correct address and place/address of employment. If the defendant is a Corporation or Limited Liability Company you would use the legal corporate or LLC name as the defendant. If the defendant is a Corporation or LLC, you may need to contact the secretary of state in your state and obtain the proper name and address to serve with a copy of the suit. This person is called a registered agent and is designated by the corporation to receive process or summons when the corporation is sued. Be sure to also contact the small claims court to determine the filing fee for filing the claim.
How to File the Claim: The plaintiff must prepare an affidavit or at his or her request, the clerk of the court may draft the affidavit. The affidavit may be presented by the claimant in person or sent to the clerk by mail.
Who serves the Defendant with summons or process and how is the defendant served: Unless service by the sheriff or other authorized person is requested by the plaintiff, the defendant will be served by mail.
Return of Summons: Pursuant to the Oklahoma Statutes Title 12 Chapter 36, Section 1755, if the envelope is returned undelivered and sufficient time remains for making service, the court clerk will deliver a copy of the affidavit and order to the sheriff who will serve the defendant. The clerk shall enclose a copy of the affidavit and the order in an envelope addressed to the defendant at the address stated in the affidavit, prepay the postage, and mail said envelope to said defendant by certified mail and request a return receipt from addressee only. The clerk shall attach to the original affidavit the receipt for the certified letter and the return card or other evidence of service of the affidavit and order. If the envelope is returned undelivered and sufficient time remains for making service, the clerk shall deliver a copy of the affidavit and order to the sheriff who shall serve the defendant in the time set in Section 1256 of Title 12, or at the election of the plaintiff service shall be governed by the provisions of subsection C of Section 2004 of Title 12.
Removal to another Court: According to the Oklahoma Statutes Title 12 Chapter 36, Section 1757, on motion of the defendant, a small claims action may, in the discretion of the court, be transferred from the small claims docket to another docket of the court, provided, that the motion is filed and notice is given by the defendant to the opposing party or parties by mailing a copy of the motion at least 49 hours prior to the time fixed in the order for defendant to appear or answer; and provided further, that the defendant deposit the sum of $50 as the court cost.
How are hearing scheduled? The clerk of the court will provide the parties with the procedure to set the case for trial or hearing at the time the claim is filed.
Subpoena of Witnesses:If witnesses are required but unwilling to voluntarily attend unless they are subpoenaed, you may obtain a subpoena issued by the court clerk for service on the witness. The subpoena is an order for the witness to appear at the hearing and testify. Some employers may require that an employee be subpoenaed in order to be excused from work.
Trial Procedures: The trial procedure is generally informal than other courts although the formality will vary from county to county and judge to judge. The case will usually be called in open court and you will respond that you are present and ready to proceed. You will then be advised when to present your claim. Be prepared to present your claim in your own words. Be prepared to question witnesses if witnesses are needed.
What happens if the defendant does not appear at trial? Usually, if the defendant does not appear at trial, a default judgment will be entered in your favor for the amount of the claim or other relief.
Judgment: According to the Oklahoma Statutes Title 12 Chapter 36, Section 1772, judgments for the payment of money will be processed and collected as follows: incident to the entering of the judgment and while the parties are still under oath the court may arrange a judgment satisfaction plan and enter a writ of execution and the court may secure a listing and description of the judgment debtor’s assets from the judgment debtor in case subsequent attachment of property becomes necessary to collect an unsatisfied judgment. Forms for an application and order to appear and answer as to assets and interrogatories to be answered by the debtor shall be supplied by the court clerk on forms promulgated by the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
If the judgment debtor fails to satisfy the judgment in accordance with the judgment satisfaction plan, the judgment creditor shall attempt to contact the judgment debtor and collect the same. If the judgment debtor still fails to satisfy the judgment, the judgment creditor may require the debtor to appear and answer interrogatories regarding assets or request the issuance of a writ of execution or a garnishment summons on forms provided by the court clerk.
Appeal: The losing party may file an appeal from the ruling of the small claims court.
Collection of Judgment: The judgment creditor may collect judgment by implementing a lien on the judgment debtor’s property. The judgment creditor may also request a writ of execution or garnishment.
Are Motions allowed? Motions are allowed by the parties on a limited basis.
Continuances: Either party may be granted a continuance for good cause shown.
Out-of-Court Settlement: If a case is settled before the hearing date, one or both parties should notify the court clerk as soon as possible so that the hearing can be canceled.
When Payment is Received: When the judgment has been satisfied, the receiving party must send written notice to the court that the judgment has been satisfied.
Cross-Claims, Counterclaims, and Third-Party Claims: The defendant may file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. The plaintiff must file a verified answer, a copy which must be delivered to the plaintiff in person, and filed with the clerk of the court not later than 72 hours prior to the hour set for the first appearance of the defendant. Pursuant to the Oklahoma Statutes Title 12 Chapter 36, Section 1758, no formal pleading, other than the claim and notice, shall be necessary, but if the defendant wishes to state new matter which constitutes a counterclaim or a setoff, he shall file a verified answer, a copy of which shall be delivered to the plaintiff in person, and filed with the clerk of the court not later than 72 hours prior to the hour set for the first appearance of the defendant in such action. If a claim, counterclaim, of a setoff is files in an amount in excess of $4,500.00, the action will be transferred to another docket of the district court unless both parties agree in wiring and file the agreement with the papers in the action that the claim, counterclaim, or setoff, will be tried under the small claims procedure.
What happens if a defendant has filed bankruptcy? If the plaintiff has filed a claim against the defendant and the plaintiff is aware that the claim is listed as a debt in a bankruptcy proceeding, federal law prohibits the plaintiff from pursuing the claim in small claims court.
Common Forms used in Small Claims Court:
Return of Summons
Abstract of Judgment
For an extensive review of all statutes which pertain to the Oklahoma Small Claims process, see the Oklahoma Statutes Title 12 Chapter 36.
For more information on Small Claims procedure in Oklahoma, please see http://www.oklahomacounty.org/courtclerk/SmallClaimsProcedures.htm.