Small Claims – General – Idaho
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law and procedures of small claims in Idaho, 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 Idaho:$5,000.00
Which Court hears small claims in Idaho?Small claims courts are part of the magistrate division of the district court. All claims which do not exceed $5,000.00 will be heard in this arena.
Who hears the claims in small claims court? The claim will be heard by a magistrate.
Claims over which the Small Claims Court has Jurisdiction:
The small claims court in Idaho may hear any of the following claims if the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000.00:
1. recovery of money
2. wrongful possession of personal property
3. landlord/tenant issues
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 $5,000.00.
Must you be represented by an attorney? No attorneys are allowed in small claims actions.
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 complete a small claims form which can be obtained from the court clerk.
Who serves the Defendant with summons or process and how is the defendant served: The court may serve the defendant by registered or certified mail or the plaintiff may elect personal service.
Return of Summons: The signature of the defendant on the return receipt shall constitute prima facie proof of service by mail.
Removal to another Court: The claim may be removed to another court if the amount in dispute exceeds the statutory limitations.
How are hearings scheduled? The clerk of the court will provide you with the procedure to set the case for trial or hearing at the time you file your claim.
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: If the defendant fails to appear, or if the court rules for you after the hearing, a judgment will be entered by the court for the amount of the claim, or other relief sought.
Appeal: Either party may appeal the decision of the court. An appeal must be filed within 30 days and the appeal will be heard by a lawyer magistrate.
Collection of Judgment: The prevailing party may request a writ of execution.
Are Motions allowed? Motions are allowed by the parties on a limited basis.
Continuances: A continuance will only be granted for good cause.
Out-of-Court Settlement: If the parties decide to settle before the trial date, the court clerk must be notified.
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: Defendant(s) may file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
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
1-2301. SMALL CLAIMS DEPARTMENT — CREATION — SCOPE OF CLAIMS — VENUE.
In every magistrate’s division of the district court of this state, the district court may create and organize a “Small Claims Department of the Magistrate’s Division,” which shall have jurisdiction in cases for the recovery of money where the amount of each claim does not exceed four thousand dollars ($4,000), and in cases for the recovery of personal property where the value of the property does not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000); provided however, that the small claims department shall not award punitive damages or damages for pain or suffering in any proceeding. Any action brought in a small claims department of the magistrate’s division shall be brought in the magistrate’s division of the county where any defendant resides unless at the time the action is filed all of the defendants reside outside of the state of Idaho, in which case the action shall be brought in the county where the cause of action arose. A defendant may request a change of venue if an action is brought in an improper county.
1-2305. CONTENTS OF CLAIM. The claim shall contain the name of the plaintiff and the name of the defendant, followed by a statement, in brief and concise form, of the nature and amount of the claim and the time the claim accrued, and shall also state the address of the defendant, if known to the plaintiff.
1-2314. SEPARATE DOCKET FOR SMALL CLAIMS DEPARTMENT. Each magistrate shall keep a separate docket for the small claims department of his division in which he shall make a permanent record of all proceedings, orders and judgments had and made in such small claims department.
This summary contains some of the provisions from the Idaho Small Claims Statutes, but does not include a comprehensive discussion of all the statutes.