How To File A Small Claims Court Case In Arizona

This is how to file a small claims court case in Arizona.

To file a small claims court case in Arizona, you should first determine where to file it.

Small claims court operates in Arizona justice courts.

The person initiating the claim, also known as the plaintiff, must file the lawsuit in the justice court precinct where the defendant resides.

How To File A Small Claims Court Case In Arizona

How to file a small claims court case in Arizona rule:

If the defendant or defendants reside outside of Arizona or have an unknown address, the plaintiff can bring the claim to the precinct where they reside.

A married person can be sued in the justice precinct where their spouse lives, unless they are separated.

If the defendant is homeless or lacks a permanent address, the plaintiff can sue them in the justice precinct where they are located.

If a person incurred a debt in one precinct and later moved, they can be sued in either precinct.

When a contract is signed in one jurisdiction, it can be brought to that precinct or the precinct where the defendant resides.

If there are multiple defendants residing in various areas, the claim can be filed in any precinct where at least one defendant lives.

Filing small claims court case in Arizona

1. Incorrect Venue:

If the lawsuit is not filed in the correct justice court, the defendant can initiate a “Motion to Change the Venue.”

The plaintiff must respond within 10 days.

If the motion is approved, the case will be relocated to the appropriate venue.

Until the motion is granted, all proceedings must take place at the originally filed courthouse.

2. Serving a Complaint:

After filing a complaint, the court will issue a summons.

The summons, complaint, and Notice to Plaintiff and Defendant must be served on all defendants (ARSCP 5(a)).

Service can be done in three ways:

Registered or certified mail with “return receipt requested,” with the return receipt filed with the court within 45 days of filing the complaint (ARSCP 5(b)(1)).

By a constable, sheriff, or process server, with an affidavit of service filed within 45 days (ARSCP 5(b)(2)).

In some courts, the clerk may make service by certified restricted mail, return receipt requested (ARS 22-513(A)).

You must file a Proof of Service within 45 days of filing the complaint; failure to do so will result in the dismissal of the claim.

Understanding Small Claims Hearings

1. Notification of Hearing:

  • The clerk of the court will inform you about the hearing date, time, and location.
  • This notification occurs within 60 days of the defendant filing an answer (ARSCP 8 and ARS § 22-515(A)-(B)).

2. Conduct of Small Claims Hearings:

  • Small claims hearings are overseen by a Justice of the Peace or a hearing officer.
  • Formal rules of procedure, pleading, or evidence do not apply, except for privileged communications (ARS 22-516(A)).
  • If you prefer a Justice of the Peace over a hearing officer, you must raise this objection at least 15 days in advance.

3. Requesting Rescheduling:

  • If the initially scheduled hearing date doesn’t work for you, you can request a rescheduling.
  • Ensure you make this request 15 days in advance.
  • Please note that your request can be denied if it lacks a valid reason, supporting documentation, or if the hearing has already been delayed.
  • Emergency requests are possible at any time, but they require a compelling reason for not adhering to the given timeframe (ARSCP 12(b)).

Presenting Evidence and Testimony in a Small Claims Hearing

1. Rules of Evidence:

  • Formal rules of evidence do not apply in small claims cases (ARS § 22-516(A) and ARSCP 12(e)).
  • The hearing official considers testimony, witnesses, documents, and decides on claims and counterclaims.
  • They may facilitate questions and allow the plaintiff and defendant to question each other and witnesses (ARSCP 12(e)).

2. Evidence Consideration:

  • No formal discovery process occurs in small claims court (ARS § 22-516(B)).
  • Relevant, material, and competent evidence is admissible (ARS § 22-516(A)).
  • Evidence may not be admitted if it lacks reliability, causes confusion, creates unfair prejudice, or is a waste of time (ARSCP 12(e)).

3. Failure to Appear at the Hearing:

  • Both the plaintiff and defendant must attend the hearing.
  • If the defendant is absent, the court may consider the evidence and grant judgment to the plaintiff.
  • If the plaintiff is absent, the court may dismiss the lawsuit.
  • If neither party appears, the court may dismiss the complaint and counterclaims without prejudice (ARSCP 12(c)(1)-(3)).

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