Small Claims – General – Wyoming
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law and procedures of small claims in Wyoming, 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 Wyoming: $6,000.00
Which Court hears small claims in Wyoming? The small claims court is a division of the district court. Therefore, if the amount of the controversy is $6,000.00 or less, this court will have jurisdiction.
Who hears the claims in small claims court? A judge will hear the case in small claims court.
Claims over which the Small Claims Court has Jurisdiction:
The small claims court in Wyoming may hear any of the following claims if the amount in controversy does not exceed $6,000.00:
1. monetary disputes
2. landlord/tenant disputes
4. The above list is not exhaustive but does contain most of the common claims. These claims MAY NOT be brought 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 $6,000.00.
Must you be represented by an attorney? The parties are not required to be represented by an attorney. However, they may hire legal counsel to represent them if they wish 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 complete the Small Claims Affidavit and return the form to the court clerk with the appropriate filing fee.
Who serves the Defendant with summons or process and how is the defendant served: The clerk of the court will issue a summons ordering the defendant to appear in court. The summons and the complaint must be served on the defendant. The summons and the complaint may be served by certified or registered mail. If the court provides this service, there may be an additional fee. If the defendant cannot be served using these methods, the precinct constable or any registered private process server will serve the summons and complaint for a fee.
Return of Summons: The sheriff, constable, or other process server shall, after effecting service, must endorse that fact on a copy of the summons and return it to the court clerk who will make the appropriate entry on the docket sheet of the action.
Removal to another Court: The case may be removed from small claims court if the amount in controversy exceeds $6,000.00.
How are hearing 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: In small claims court, the parties may only appeal issues concerning questions of law and the sufficiency of evidence.
Collection of Judgment: The judgment creditor may collect judgment by requesting a writ of execution, garnishment, or levying upon the judgment debtor’s property.
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: If the defendant wishes to file a counterclaim, the court clerk can provide the proper forms.
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
Wyoming Court Rules Governing Small Claims Actions:
Rule 1. Scope of rules.
These rules govern procedure in small claims cases in circuit courts and justice of the peace courts. Statutes governing small claims cases which are in conflict with these rules are superseded.
Rule 2. Forms.
Form No. 1, designated Small Claims Affidavit and Notice to Plaintiff and Defendant, together with Form No. 2, designated Summons with Return, attached hereto, shall be adopted for use in all circuit courts and justices of the peace courts in processing small claims cases.
Rule 3. Filing fees.
The fee for filing small claims actions shall be ten dollars ($10.00) in circuit courts and justice of the peace courts.
Rule 4. Venue.
A defendant in small claims actions may only be sued in the county in which the defendant has an address. (W.S. 1-21-203)
Rule 5. Responsive pleadings.
No answer nor responsive pleading shall be required in small claims actions.
Rule 6. Rules of evidence.
Strict rules of evidence shall not apply in trials of small claims actions. Irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. A court may in its discretion receive the type of evidence commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent persons in the conduct of their serious business affairs. Hearsay that is probative, trustworthy and credible may be received into evidence.
Rule 7. Appeals.
Appeals of small claims actions to district court shall be processed pursuant to W.R.A.P. and only on questions of law and not for a review of the sufficiency of evidence.