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What Is a Small Claims Court in Colorado?
Small Claims Courts in Colorado hear civil cases that involve up to $7,500 in value, excluding costs and interests. A Small Claims case begins when a party, who is the plaintiff, files a lawsuit against another party, who is the defendant. Small Claims Courts in Colorado have concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court and the County Courts over cases such as:
- Contract enforcement
- Personal injury
- Property damage
- Restrictive covenants on residential property
- Money recovery
- Security deposits
Under Colorado Revised Statutes, the Small Claims Court has limited jurisdiction. Matters outside the court’s purview include:
- Defamation claims
- Unlawful detainment or forced entry
- Class action lawsuits
- Traffic violations
- Injunctive relief cases
- Other cases outside the County Court’s jurisdiction
How Do Colorado Small Claims Court Work?
Colorado Small Claims Courts are a division of the County Court. Consequently, the rules of Small Claims procedures are additions to the state’s rules of civil procedure. In order to settle cases quickly and inexpensively, Small Claims Court hearings are informal, and rules of evidence do not strictly apply as in other courts. Case parties may not use attorneys or have a jury trial in a Colorado Small Claims Court. Additionally, the court does not permit pre-trial conferences, depositions, or discovery.
Attorneys may only appear in Small Claims Courts as case parties, full-time employees of organizations, or active members of other entities that are parties to a Small Claims case. The court allows organizations, partnerships, and other entities to be represented by full-time employees or active members. In a landlord-tenant dispute, a property manager may represent the property owner. However, the property manager must have been the one who received rent or signed a lease on the property owner’s behalf in the case.
Judges or magistrates decide Small Claims cases in Colorado. The court may require case parties to have settlement discussions before a trial. If the parties agree, the parties may present the agreement to the court for approval. However, if the parties do not agree, the trial will proceed as scheduled. It is important to note that the Small Claims court does not participate in pre-trial settlement discussions.
Small Claims Court judges and magistrates deliver judgments immediately at the end of the trial. Case parties may file a notice of appeal within 14 days after the court delivers a judgment.
How to Take Someone to Small Claims Court in Colorado
A Small Claims case begins when a plaintiff files a claim against a defendant. The plaintiff’s claim must contain information about the events leading up to the claim, and the plaintiff must pay a filing fee. The plaintiff must file the case in the defendant’s county of residence or where the defendant does business. Alternatively, the plaintiff may file the case in the county where the event leading up to the claim happened. If the dispute involves real estate property, the plaintiff may file the claim in the county where the property is located. When the plaintiff files the claim according to the court’s guidelines, the court clerk sets a hearing date at least 30 days after filing.
The Clerk of Court must serve the defendant the Notice, Claim, and Summons for Trial at least 15 days before the scheduled trial. Service usually takes place within three (3) days of filing a complaint. The defendant must return proof of receipt. The plaintiff will pay filing fees and bear the service costs. The defendant must file a response to the plaintiff’s complaint before or on the trial date. The defendant may file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. However, if the counterclaim exceeds the jurisdiction of the Small Claims court, the court will notify the defendant.
During Small Claims court proceedings, the court does not permit discovery, depositions, pre-trial conferences, or disclosures. Additionally, it is impossible to have a jury trial in the Colorado Small Claims court. The court permits witness testimonies, case party testimonies, and evidence presentation. However, the Small Claims court does not strictly apply rules of evidence. The Small Claims court judge or magistrate delivers a judgment immediately at the end of the trial. If the plaintiff wins the case, the court will award damages or other forms of compensation, which may include the plaintiff’s court costs.
How Much Can You Sue for in Colorado Small Claims Court?
Colorado Small Claims Courts hear cases that involve no more than $7,500 in value. This amount excludes costs and interests. Interested parties may file Small Claims that exceed $7,500 in Small Claims courts. However, such parties must waive the amount in excess as the parties will only be able to collect $7,500. The court does not permit case parties to split one claim into multiple cases. Parties may file no more than two (2) claims each month in a county or 18 claims in a calendar year.
Persons with claims that exceed $7,500 may file a civil action in the County Court or District Court, depending on the amount involved. County Courts hear civil cases that involve up to $25,000, while District Courts hear civil cases that involve any amount.
How to Defend Yourself in Colorado Small Claims Court
Persons who get sued in a Small Claims case must read the Notice, Claim, and Summons for Trial diligently. This document contains information about who the plaintiff is, what the plaintiff is suing for, when the trial is scheduled to hold, and where. The defendant may choose to respond in writing to the claim by completing the answer section of the Notice, Claim, and Summons for Trial and filing it with the Court Clerk. Completing the answer section will allow the defendant to tell their version of the events leading to the claim. The defendant must pay a filing fee, and the fee depends on the amount involved in the lawsuit and whether the answer includes a counterclaim. Persons who cannot afford the filing fees may petition the court for a waiver. The defendant must furnish the plaintiff with copies of the answer and counterclaim, if applicable.
The Colorado Courts offer mediation services; if case parties come to a resolution or agreement in mediation, the case will not proceed to trial. If the court orders mediation, the defendant may prepare for mediation by collecting and organizing all documents that relate to the case. The defendant must also prepare to discuss the case with the plaintiff and the mediator constructively and reasonably.
If the case proceeds to trial, the defendant can prepare by contacting witnesses, gathering and organizing any evidence that may be useful in the case. The defendant must also provide copies of the evidence to the judge and the plaintiff. It may be helpful to make outlines or notes for presentation during the trial. Colorado courts make trials open to the public; case parties may attend any Small Claims court trial to aid preparation.
How Long Do You Have to Take Someone to Small Claims Court in Colorado?
The statute of limitations is the time within which a plaintiff must file a claim. When this period expires, the plaintiff may no longer take the defendant to court. The statute of limitations for filing a small claim in Colorado depends on the type of case. But generally, it ranges from two (2) to six (6) years. The statute of limitations to file property damage and personal injury claims in Colorado is two (2) years. For broken oral contracts, the statute of limitations is three (3) years, while claims for broken written contracts can be filed not later than six (6) years from the date of the contract. For minors, personal injury claims cannot begin until the minor is 18; therefore, it may be possible to extend the statutes of limitations in this case.
What Happens if You Don’t Show Up for Small Claims Court in Colorado?
Plaintiffs who fail to show up for Small Claims hearings without showing good reason may have the claims dismissed by the court. If the court dismisses the case without prejudice, the plaintiff may be able to re-file the case within the filing deadline. However, if the court dismisses the case without prejudice, the plaintiff may only re-file the claim if the court vacates the dismissal. The plaintiff must file a petition for vacation. If a defendant fails to show up for a Small Claims hearing, the court may enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. If the defendant has a good reason for failing to show up, the defendant may ask the court to set aside the default judgment.
What are Small Claims Court Records in Colorado?
Small Claims court records are official documents that contain information about Small Claims cases. The court and case parties generate these records in the process of a Small Claims case. Small Claims court records include records generated at the beginning of a Small Claims case, like petitions, notices, and summons up until the end of the case, like judgment orders.
Where Can I Find Colorado Small Claims Court Records?
Interested parties can find Colorado Small Claims Court records by visiting or contacting the Clerk of Court in the county where the plaintiff filed the claim. The state also makes Colorado court records available through third-party websites. However, records available on third-party websites are not official court records. The third-party websites also charge access fees. Persons who want copies of Small Claims court records must contact the court directly by mail, telephone, email, or in person.