States — A Closer Look at Small Claims
State rules for collecting your judgment
The Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 13.6.401–417; and the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for Small Claims Courts, Rules 501–521 govern the procedures in Colorado small claims courts.
Colorado law requires that small claims cases be handled expeditiously even if this requires minimal evening or weekend hours for these courts.
In Colorado, landlord-tenant disputes involving security deposits are heard in small claims court as there are no separate or specific courts for these issues.
In Colorado, the limit that can be sought in a small claims case is $7,500. You may not split the claim in order to exceed the $7,500 limit. If your claim is for more than that amount, you can choose to move the case to a formal court of waive your right to anything over and above $7,500.
Plaintiffs are limited to 2 claims per month and 18 per year.
In addition, the legal rate of interest in Colorado is 8% compounded annually.
Commencing a Claim in Colorado
In order to file a claim in Colorado, you must submit a claim form provided by the court which will include plaintiff's brief statement of the facts giving rise to the action; and, the name and address of the defendant.
All forms and instructions related to Small Claims can be found at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm/Form_Type_ID/9.
Along with the form(s) you must pay the appropriate filing fee. These fees are as follows: $31 for claims up to $500 and $55 for claims from $500.01 to $7,500.
Where to File your Claim
The claim must be filed in the county where the defendant resides, is employed, or where the business has an office or regularly does business, or if a student, where the individual is enrolled in school.
Once filed, the case becomes the jurisdiction of the court. Hearings will be scheduled by the court at least 30 days after the filing. The defendant must be served at least 15 days prior to the hearing.
The Defendant’s Response/counterclaim
When the defendant responds to the claim, he can either explain why he thinks the claim is invalid or file a counterclaim stating the reasons why the plaintiff actually owes him money. This claim is limited to the $7,500 limit as well.
There are some special provisions here, and you should consult an attorney or check with the county for further instructions. Furthermore, there are additional fees here as well.
In general, no party shall be represented by an attorney. Corporations, nonprofits and unions should be represented only by a full or part time employee. If that person is an attorney, then the other side may also be represented by a lawyer.
Additionally, jury trials are not permitted in small claims courts.
Statute of Limitations
There are several types of cases that can be brought to small claims court in Colorado and there are differing statutes of limitations as well.
- For written contracts regarding liquidated amounts, the statute of limitation is 6 years.
- For written contracts regarding non-liquidated amounts, the statute of limitation is 3 years.
- For oral contracts, the statute of limitation is 6 years.
- For personal injury cases, it is 2 years.
- For property damage, the statute of limitations is also 2 years.
- For personal injury or property damage resulting from a motor vehicle accident, the limit is 3 years.
- For motor vehicle repair it is 1 year.
Keep in mind that the clock begins to run from the time the act occurred.
Requirement for Mediation
Courts in some Colorado jurisdictions may require mediation or settlement discussions on the trial date but before the trial. If the mediation is successful, the agreement is presented to the court for approval. If it is unsuccessful, the trial will go on as scheduled.
Appealing a Small Claims Decision in Colorado
Small Claims decisions can be appealed in Colorado by either side. However, the appeals court may only review the law — the facts may not be considered. Furthermore, this is a paper review in the district court. You cannot introduce new evidence. The appeals decision is final except that, under rare circumstances, the State Supreme Court agrees to consider the case.
Filing for the appeal must be made within 15 days of the original court decision and requires additional fees and perhaps a bond.
You may be represented by an attorney during the appeals hearing, but again, it is not necessary.
Collecting your Judgment in Colorado
In Colorado, as elsewhere, the Small Claims court cannot and does not collect your judgment; however, they can help with necessary forms. These procedures can be complicated and you may feel more comfortable seeking the advice of a lawyer. You can ask the court to require that the losing party disclose assets and property by having that party answer written questions or appear in court. You can then use the information provided to help you in your collection efforts.
The money judgement is good for 6 years in Colorado. If you have appealed to the District Court, the judgment is then good for 20 years.
All garnishments and liens against personal and real property require forms and fees. Please check with your county court to get proper forms and filing fees as these differ and change often. If you have questions or need explanations, you should consult an attorney.
For a more complete list of methods to collect the judgement you are entitled to, see our General Methods for Collecting Your Judgment article in our collection of articles on judgment collection resources. The methods are generally the same in all states, though the procedures you need to follow may differ in different jurisdictions.
collecting your judgment
Article of the month
What You Should Know
Before You File a Claim
States—A Closer Look at Small Claims
This month’s focus: Michigan
- Demand Letter (before the suit is filed)
- Demand Letter (after the judgment is awarded)
Note: The first letter was originally published by one of our authors, Pat Schroeder, at http://www.thelawinsider.com/insider-tips/how-to-write-a-demand-letter/.
Collect Your Judgment Links
- ABA Guide to Solving Legal Disputes, Chapter 5, Small Claims
- ADR—Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Clients Guide to Language and Procedure, Chapter 5
- Small Claims Court Terms
Tip of the Week
September 27, 2010
If you have been awarded a judgment, waited the 30 days required, sent a demand letter giving the debtor a time limit for paying his/her debt; what should you do if you still have no money? You know that the court can do little, but before you take steps to garnish wages or bank accounts, consider suggesting negotiation or mediation if the debtor gives any impression that they want to settle the matter.