1. Cases That Can Appear in Small Claims Court
2. How to File Your Claim
3. The Decision

Arizona small claims court forms are used for cases in which the plaintiff is seeking a judgment of $3,500 or less from the defendant. Some examples of cases that are commonly heard in small claims court are landlord/tenant disputes over security deposits and disputes between customers and vendors over refunds. Other typical cases involve debts, property damage, personal injury, and contracts.

Not every civil dispute can go through small claims court, so you should check to be sure that your case qualifies before you begin the paperwork.

Cases That Can Appear in Small Claims Court

Cases that cannot be heard in small claims court:

  • Any case where the plaintiff is asking for more than $3,500
  • Defamation cases
  • Evictions
  • Suits for specific performance of a contract
  • Requests for injunctive relief
  • Class actions
  • Lawsuits against the State of Arizona

The mission of the small claims system for the State of Arizona is to "allow the inexpensive, speedy, and informal resolution of small claims." By choosing to take your case to small claims court, you give up your right to representation by legal counsel and to a jury trial. You also lose the right to appeal your case.

You have a limited period of time within which to file your claim. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 12-541 et. seq. sets out these limits, which are usually two, three, or six years, depending on the case. Contact your clerk's office or do your own research to determine the time allowed for your situation.

There are a few limited circumstances under which you may still be able to take legal action if you miss the deadline. It's best to seek the guidance of an attorney if you want to pursue that possibility.

How to File Your Claim

The courts are governed by Title 22 of the Revised Statutes, which gives consistency to small claims procedures in the various counties of Arizona. However, five counties — Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, and Pinal — have their own specific forms that must be used.

You must file your small claims case in the county where the defendant lives or where his or her business is located, where the injury occurred, or where the obligation was to be carried out. If the defendant is out-of-state, you can file your case in the county in which you live. Circumstances may allow you to file elsewhere, depending on the situation.

To file your claim, you will have to provide:

  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the defendant
  • The type of case
  • A summary of the conflict, including the date the claim arose
  • The dollar amount of the relief you're requesting

Once you have all this information, you'll need to do the following:

  1. Gather the appropriate documents and fill them out. In Arizona, the complaint and summons forms are the same document. Keep multiple copies of your Summons/Complaint forms. The court gets two copies, and each defendant gets one copy. You will also want to keep copies for yourself.
  2. You will file the original claim with the clerk of the court and pay whatever filing fees are required. The initial fee is $24, as set by state statute. Counties may elect to add other fees. The clerk assigns a case number and fills in any blanks.
  3. You must serve the defendant with a copy of the suit and a summons to compel him or her to come to court. To do this, you mail a certified or registered letter to the defendant's home or business. Another option is to have a sheriff, constable, deputy, or private process server deliver the documents personally.

One the case has been filed and everyone has been properly notified, it's time to prepare for court. As part of your preparations, you will want to:

  • Put together a compelling statement of your position.
  • Round up all your documentation and other evidence. This might include account statements, picture, contracts, and other documents.
  • Gather reliable witnesses and/or knowledgeable experts who are willing to testify about what they saw or know.
  • Plan what you'll say in court, and decide on the order in which you'll present everything.

The Decision

The decision in a small claims case is called a "judgment." he judgment is usually mailed to the parties a few days or a few weeks after the court hearing. However, if one side doesn't appear in court, the other may win a default judgment. Such a decision may be rendered then and there, i.e., immediately and in the courtroom.

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