The Colorado Small Claims Court Dollar Amount Limit

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.

Filing a Small Claims Case in Colorado

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 23-01-2014

If you have determined your case is suitable for small claims court and you’re within the statute of limitations, it’s time to do the necessary paperwork. The form to be filled out and filed is called “Notice Claim and Summons to Appear for Trial, also known as the “complaint.” (Form # JDF250)

This is a 4 part form, with two copies for the Court and one each for the plaintiff and the defendant. The various pieces of information you will need to complete this form include:

1.    County name and address of the court.

2.    Your name or the name of your business or other entity that has suffered the damage. If there are multiple parties suing, list each by name.

3.    If you are suing as an individual use your residential address. If your business or other group is suing use its office address and phone number. Do not use a post office box number.

4.    If you are suing an individual fill in the individual’s full name. Include any aliases of which you are aware. If you are suing two or more people, list each. If you’re not sure if you should file against the individual or the business, list both.

5.    Even though you can list more than one person or business on the name line, you must have only one address listed. Use the address which corresponds to the venue option that led you to file the action in that county.

6.    Appropriate phone numbers if you know them.

7.    Information regarding a second defendant, if there is one in your case.
8.    The amount you wish to claim from the other party.

9.    The nature of your claim. Let the court and the other party know why you are suing.

There are 16 fields that need to be filled in on this form. The book “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court : How to Sue and Collect” by Charles P. Brackney, Esq. includes a numbered sample of the form and a chapter that provides suggestions and guidance on how to fill it out.

Filing an Action in Colorado Small Claims Court

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 19-09-2013

If you’ve determined that you’re ready to proceed to Small Claims Court, your next step is to file the court papers. However, before you file, you need to make sure you sue the other party in the correct Colorado County. Your case cannot go forward if it is not filed in the right court in the right place.

The rules regarding actions in Small Claims Court are very specific about the proper place to bring the action. The case must be filed in a Colorado county in which at least one of the following requirements is met: Continue reading “Filing an Action in Colorado Small Claims Court” »

Laying the Groundwork for a Colorado Small Claims Case

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 27-06-2013

After you have determined that your case is appropriate for Small Claims Court—there is damage or loss, someone is liable, and the amount of the claim does not exceed $7,500—you are ready to proceed to court. Your first task is to lay the ground work for a successful outcome in court. One of the most effective ways to begin is to send the other party a letter outlining your version of the events in the case and asking for payment. This correspondence, sent by you directly to the other party without any court involvement, is usually called a demand letter.

The demand letter serves three important purposes.

1.    It helps you focus on the relevant aspects of the case before you initiate a court action. Writing a demand letter compels you to examine the facts in the case and determine the extent of the damage or loss, who is liable, and whether you want to pursue the case. A demand letter provides a good vehicle for clarifying what you intend to accomplish by filing an action.

2.    Serves to alert the other party to the fact that you believe he or she owes you money, without escalating the matter to the level of litigation. The other party is made aware of your seriousness as well. Sometimes, though not often, sending a demand letter will actually result in your receiving payment for your claim without the need for a formal court action.

3.    Usually the best reason to send a demand letter prior to commencement of a court action is to create a history of the case—from your perspective. The letter should state how you perceive the chronology of events so far, and how you perceive the event, bargain, or transaction that is the basis for your claim. To this extent, the real audience for your demand letter is the judge, not the other party. You want to create a document that clearly sets out what has happened for the benefit of someone who has never heard of you or the other party and is totally unfamiliar with your dispute. This type of letter is especially important in a situation involving an oral contract, because it may be the only written account of the transaction.

For more tips on composing an effective demand letter, check out “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court: How to Sue and Collect” by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legal Issue?

Filed Under (Business, Colorado Deeds, Divorce and Legal Separation, Eviction, Leases and Landlord Tenant, Mechanics Liens, Power of Attorney, Probate, Real Estate, Small Claims, Starting a Business, Wills and Estates) on 23-05-2013

The decision to hire an attorney depends upon assessing the situation — and then being honest with yourself about your ability to handle the matter on your own.

First, always consult an attorney for:

•    Criminal charges
•    If you are sued
•    Bankruptcy
•    Employment issues (whether you are a business or an employee)
•    Personal injuries
•    Entering a franchise agreement
•    Selling a business, or bringing new owners into a business.

Individuals may effectively handle family law matters, business transactions, estate planning, and tax issues. However, one has to consider the costs of time and expertise when deciding to act without an attorney.

Advantages of handling a legal issue yourself:
•    There are Court-approved forms and books to help you.
•    You can move quickly, not waiting for an attorney to get to your matter.
•    You save money by not hiring an attorney.

Disadvantages of handling a legal issue yourself: Continue reading “Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legal Issue?” »

Common Case Scenarios in Colorado Small Claims Courts

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 17-05-2013

The laws and rules pertaining to Small Claims Court  spell out certain requirements that must be met before a case is eligible to be heard as a small claim. All cases must meet the basic rules for time and dollar amount limits (1-6 years, depending on type of case and not more than $7,500).  The main rule regarding the types of cases that are eligible is that only cases in which you are seeking money from another party can be brought in Small Claims Court. You cannot get divorced in Small Claims Court, you cannot evict someone from an apartment, you cannot change your name, you cannot sue for libel or slander, you cannot sue your employer for wrongful discharge, nor can you get an injunction or restraining order.

Given that Small Claims Courts have heard thousands and thousands of cases over the years, chances are, no matter how strange your case may seem, a small claims judge has seen it already!

Here are some of the most common types of case situations that come up in Small Claims Court:

●    A customer suing a business to return a deposit for goods never delivered or services never performed.

●    A driver suing another driver for damages caused to the former’s automobile.

●    A small business seeking to recover from someone who has written a bad check to pay for goods or services.

●    An employee of a small business who was paid with a bad check.

●    A loan which the other party refuses to repay.

●    A customer suing a dry cleaning business because an article of clothing was lost or damaged.

●    A tenant suing a landlord for refusing to return a security deposit.

●    A landlord suing a tenant for damages to an apartment.
●    A car owner suing a garage for faulty motor vehicle repairs.

For more information about the small claim process, see “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court: How to Sue and Collect”, by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.

Is Colorado Small Claims Court for You?

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 04-04-2013

Your landlord won’t return your deposit after you’ve moved out of your old apartment. Your car has minor damage from an accident. You paid a business for a service and now they refuse to do it. Your neighbor knocked down part of your privacy fence to put in a backyard basketball court.

In each of these situations, you suffered a financial loss because of the actions or inactions of someone else. Fairness dictates that you be compensated. However, you may be tempted to just forget the matter because the amount of money involved isn’t that much—certainly not enough to think about hiring an attorney—and that’s if you’re lucky enough to collect. You’re not happy about it, but going any farther seems like too much trouble.

You’ve thought about taking your case to Small Claims Court, but worry about the obstacles to success even though you know what happened in your case and why you deserve to be compensated. The prospect of having to explain it to a judge you’ve never met, in front of a roomful of strangers, is daunting. And then there is the need to get all the paperwork straight while navigating the unfamiliar legal system, with its plaintiffs, defendants, bailiffs, impossible to understand rules and strange terminology. It’s easy just to write off the experience as a lesson learned and move on.

People just like you win cases everyday in small claims courts all across Colorado. They believe their claims to compensation are worth pursuing, not abandoning, even if the amount is not enough to justify hiring a lawyer. They’ve familiarized themselves with the rules and procedures of Small Claims Court, and have done the preparation necessary to be successful there. They’ve done this on their own, without the aid of an attorney. You can, too.

“Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court” walks people with no previous knowledge of the Colorado Small Claims Court system, through this process step by step. This book will help you with everything from determining if your case is right for small claims court, laying the groundwork for a case, filing an action, handling the Defendant’s response, preparing for the hearing, to collecting your money. To get a better idea of how this book can help you, click on the widget below to view the entire table of contents and much more.

Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court: How to Sue and Collect, by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.

Who Can Sue and Be Sued in Colorado Small Claims Court

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 14-02-2013

No attorneys necessary. Yes, you read it right. Attorneys are not allowed to represent people in small claims court. There are specific rules in the law of Small Claims Court which set out who can initiate and defend against an action in that forum. The general rule is that any person may sue any other person. Corporations, partnerships, associations, and other organizations may also bring actions or defend against them, but they cannot use their attorney in court.

You are also allowed to bring Small Claims actions against state and local governmental entities including  the State of Colorado, counties, cities, and special districts. However, you cannot sue federal government in Small Claims Court. 

Below is a list of who can actually represent each of these players in court.

●    An individual is to represent himself or herself.
●    A partnership is to be represented by an active general partner or an authorized full-time employee, a union by an authorized member or a full-time employee.
●    An association or other kind of organization shall be represented by an active member or full-time employee.
●    For-profit corporations can be represented by a full-time officer or a full-time employee.
●    Limited Liability Companies or Partnerships can be represented by a full-time officer or active general partner.
●    Nonprofit corporations may be represented by an employee or an officer who is not an attorney.
●    Landlords may be represented by local property managers.

There are special rules concerning the role of attorneys in Small Claims Court. The point, after all, is to afford parties an opportunity to present their cases on their own in a less formal atmosphere, and allowing attorney representation would change the whole nature of the proceedings.

What if you want to sue an attorney who paid your small business with a bad check? What if an attorney, acting on his own, wants to sue you in Small Claims Court? Attorneys are allowed to represent them¬selves as individuals in Small Claims Court in much the same way any other citizen can. If a party to a case happens to be an attorney, the case can still be heard in Small Claims Court. The attorney is merely banned from representing others. However, should an opposing party be someone who is an attorney, you may then also be represented by an attorney, even in Small Claims Court. Finally, you should also be aware that it is permissible for a party to seek the advice of an attorney before and during the course of a small claims case.

For more information about the small claims process, see “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court: How to Sue and Collect ” by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.

How Can Colorado Small Claims Court Help You?

Filed Under (Small Claims) on 08-01-2013

The Colorado General Assembly enacted legislation in 1976 creating a small claims division for each County Court in the state. The legislature did this because it was concerned that individuals, associations, and even small businesses frequently did not pursue valid small claims because of the expense of retaining legal counsel and the time and effort such litigation usually required. They also realized that the intricacies of the law and the complicated rules of court procedure deterred many who might have legitimate claims. They sought to create a forum where claims involving a relatively small amount of money (currently less than $7,500) could be resolved in an inexpensive, speedy, and informal manner.

Here are four of the big advantages of the Small Claims process over regular civil suits.

1.    Less Complicated. While the substantive law still governs, in Small Claims Court many of the technical rules of pleading and evidence have been relaxed to make the process friendlier to people bringing actions without an attorney.

2.    More Accessible. The legislature decided that small claims cases should be heard at times convenient for Colorado citizens, including evenings and Saturdays, and that court personnel in the small claims divisions be trained to assist anyone interested in using the small claims process.

3.    Reduced Expense. Small Claims Court is designed for the person who wants to pursue a case without an attorney. In fact, parties are not allowed to have legal representation in small claims cases.

4.    Faster Resolution. Again, the whole idea behind Small Claims Court is to provide citizens with a place for the easy and quick resolution of disputes. Cases brought in Small Claims Court are often decided within a month of the initial filing. Compare this with the months or even years a case may be in litigation in a County or District Court. By removing many of the complicated rules and procedures of the regular court process and eliminating attorney’s altogether, cases are more likely to be focused on the central dispute, thus simplifying them and allowing for a more speedy resolution.

The experiment in making the courts more accessible to the average citizen has proven successful, both in Colorado and elsewhere. Every state now has some variation of the small claims court concept. Since the establishment of small claims courts in Colorado in the late 1970s, thousands of such cases have been filed. Remember that each one of these filings represents someone who was willing to enter the legal system without the benefit of legal counsel.

For more information about the small claim process, see “Winning Big in Colorado Small Claims Court : How to Sue and Collect”, by Charles P. Brackney, Esq.

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