Using Small Claims Court to Collect on a Debt


Suppose one of the following: (1) you are owed a “small” debt; (2) you entered a contract for some product for your home and it hasn’t been provided or is defective; (3) you were involved in an auto accident where your only claim is damage to your vehicle; (4) you were given a bad check.  These and other types of “small claims” don’t warrant hiring an attorney to represent you as the cost of legal fees could equal or exceed the amount owed you.  What legal remedy is available to you?  You may be able to pursue your remedies in the “Small Claims Court.”

In Arizona, if the amount you are seeking to recover does not exceed $3,500, exclusive of interest and costs, you may be able to file your lawsuit in the Small Claims Court which is handled through the Justice of the Peace Court system.  The filing and answer fees for claims in Small Claims Court are less than in Justice of the Peace or Superior Court cases.  A hearing will be scheduled in front of a “hearing officer” rather than a Justice of the Peace.  The procedure is less formal but the usual rules governing civil cases are still applicable.

No licensed attorney-at-law may appear to represent a client in the Small Claims Court.  You will be representing yourself as will your opponent!  The decision of the hearing officer is final and is not subject to any appeal.  However, if any party in the lawsuit objects to the Small Claims Court hearing the matter at least ten days before the hearing, the case will be transferred out of the Small Claims Court to the Justice of the Peace Court.

More information on what matters can be presented, the procedures of the Small Claims Court, how to collect any judgment entered in your favor, and other points can be found at Small Claims Court.


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