Filed Under (Small Claims) on 14-10-2014
Most cases brought to Small Claims Court involve suits to recover money. The law governing these courts sets out how much a “small claim” can be. Claims greater than this amount, by definition, are not “small claims” and must be heard in County Court or District Court.
It is the state legislature’s task to decide what the proper amount should be.
When the Small Claims Court was first established in Colorado in mid-1970s, the maximum amount a person could sue for in that forum was $2,000. It was later raised to $3,500, then $5,000. Legislation enacted in 2001 raised the limit to the current maximum of $7,500. However, despite what the legislature thinks, it’s probably safe to say that most citizens would not consider a loss of $7,500 to be in any way small.
When the law says that a claim may not exceed $7,500, it means you cannot ask for more than that amount in a single court action. You can still file in Small Claims Court if the amount you are owed exceeds this amount—but you will forever forfeit your claim to the amount over $7,500. In some situations, this may be the best way to go. Say you have a valid claim based on a bad check written to you in the amount of $7,700. You may decide that the advantages of Small Claims Court—faster resolution, no lawyer expense—outweigh the loss of $200. You might not even be able to retain a lawyer to take case for $200. You can still sue in Small Claims Court and be awarded judgment for $7,500, the lion’s share of your claim. Of course, this option is far less attractive if you are owed $9,700.
After reading the scenario above, you might think it would be easy enough to file one claim for $7,500 and another for $200, thus making it under the dollar amount limit while still claiming the entire amount owed. However, the rules of Small Claims Court do not allow this. Only one action may be brought for each claim. You can try to split your claims so that you can file more than one case. To do this, you will need to show that each claim is based on a separate transaction, contract, or performance of a service. Courts will consider these on a case-by-case basis, and will accept separate claims if they feel all claims are appropriate. If you can genuinely distinguish your claims and do it without brushing up against the dollar amount limit, you should go ahead and file more than one case.
To learn more about how to file a small claim suit in Colorado, check out “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court: How to Sue and Collect by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.