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Objective information on small claims judgement collection

States — A Closer Look at Small Claims
State rules for collecting your judgment

OREGON

The Law

Oregon Revised Statutes §55.011 — §55.140 establishes the small claims court department, procedure and monetary limit in the State of Oregon. The laws of the state require that each justice court shall have a small claims division.

Before You Decide to Go to Court

Before you file a claim in small claims court in Oregon you will be required to sign a sworn affidavit stating that you have made every good faith effort to settle your claim and collect your money. This can include efforts through phone calls, letters, or even in person. Oregon courts do not require mediation prior to going to court; however that may be a step well worth taking — court should always be a last resort. This helps to maintain relationships with the debtors and saves the courts valuable time.

If you are going to write a letter to the person whom you believe owes the money, you could refer to our “Sample Demand Letter (before the suit is filed).

Monetary Limit

The monetary limit for small claims cases in Oregon is $7,500. If the claim exceeds that amount or the defendant’s counterclaim exceeds $750 and there is a request for a jury trial, then the case will be moved to the circuit court in the same county or jurisdiction. Cases for small claims courts must be filed where the defendant resides, where the injury occurred, or where performance was expected in contract suits.

Only with specific authorization by the judge can you be represented by an attorney in small claims court. In addition, if the law you are suing under has a statutory requirement for attorney fees, then you will be required to file in the circuit court. Furthermore, class action suits are not allowed in small claims court.

How to File Your Case

Once you have signed the affidavit stating that you have made a reasonable effort to settle the case, you will want to collect all of your information and prepare to file your case in small claims court. This will include documentation, any contracts and agreements, a list of witnesses that you will want to be present at the trial, and any other evidence to prove your case. Now you can head to the courthouse to file your case. You will need the following information and it must be accurate:

  • Your complete name and address;
  • The complete names and addresses of each one of the persons or businesses you are filing a claim against — proper name and addresses of businesses can be found by contacting the Oregon Secretary of State Corporate Division. The reason for this is that the proper person to sue where a business is involved is the registered agent, officer, director or general partner; if the correct person is not listed in the suit, the court will not be able to grant a judgment.
  • The amount you are claiming which must be $7,500 or less;
  • A simple explanation of the case; and,
  • The necessary filing fees.

The filing fees in Oregon at the present time range from $50 to $100 for the plaintiff. If the defendant wishes to file a counterclaim his/her fees will range from $44 to $130. The amount of the fee will depend on the amount you are suing for. At this point the clerk at the court will have you swear under oath that the small claims statements in your submitted paperwork are true.

At this point the court will serve the papers on the defendant and a court date will be set.

Defendant’s Response

The defendant has the option, within 14 days of service, of paying the claim at the courthouse or making arrangements to return property in dispute. He/she may ask for a hearing and/or file a counterclaim against you. The case will remain in small claims court as long as the amount of the counterclaim does not exceed the $7,500 limit. If the original or counterclaim is more than $750, the defendant may request a jury trial.

If the defendant does not respond, the plaintiff may fill out a “Request for Default Judgment” at the clerk’s office, submit it, and the clerk will enter the judgment. This must be done within 90 days or the claim will be dismissed.

Collecting Your Judgment

If you had a hearing and the judge ruled in your favor, or your default judgment is granted, the defendant will be expected to pay the awarded amount. As in all other states, that is where the court’s job ends — it will be your responsibility to collect that judgment.

You have several options for collection. First of all you can choose to garnish the debtor’s wages or bank accounts. The forms for this can be purchased online or at a store that sells business forms. You will need to fill these out and file the forms with fees to the court. Please note that the court does not supply these forms. Secondly, you can choose to put a lien on his/her real property or have the sheriff seize the debtor’s personal property. If you do not know where the bank accounts are, where the debtor works, or if and where he/she owns property, you can ask the court to require the debtor to appear in court to answer these questions.

Understand that each of these methods will cost you money to pursue, but even these amounts can become part of what the debtor will owe.

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.

Back to States — A Closer Look at Small Claims - articles on how to collect your judgement by state

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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.

More tips...

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