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Small Claims Court is for money debts, personal injury or property damages up to $6,000. That is the maximum amount you can receive in Small Claims Court. If your Claim is for more than the limit, you must choose either to reduce your Claim or give up your right to recover the excess, or to sue in another Court.
If you file your claim by mail, please note that the Plaintiff`s signature on the Affidavit must be signed before a Notary Public. Small Claims suits require two separate checks or money orders, one payable to Teton County Circuit Court for the $10 filing fee, and one payable to Teton County Sheriff's Office for the service fee ($50 per summons). Do not send one check to cover both fees, it will be returned to you and your case will be delayed until proper (separate) payment is received.
While you can file your claim by mail, you must appear in Court to prosecute your claim. You may contact the Court to learn an available Court date, and the dates between which your claim must be received in order to accommodate your appearance on the date you choose. If you are filing your claim from outside Teton County, in order to avoid a trip to Jackson if your Defendant has not been served, please be aware of the following.
You must call the court prior to your court date to see if the Defendant was served. If the Defendant has not been served, you would want to know that prior to coming to Jackson. You can request an Alias Summons be issued with a new court date, you will also need to send another $50 service fee. If you have any questions about the Small Claims Affidavit or Summons, please read the instructions. If you still have questions, call the Court`s Office before completing the forms. If they are incorrectly filled out, they will be returned to you for correction, which may delay your Court date.
The fee for filing a Small Claims action is $10, payable to the Circuit Court in the form of exact change, personal or business check, or money order. In addition, and separately, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office charges $50, payable in advance in the form of exact change, check or money order, for service of each summons in a Small Claims action. (If you are suing two people in the same case, you will pay $50 each to the Sheriff’s Office for service.)
This initial fee for the Sheriff covers the first three attempts at service, regardless of where in the County the Defendant is to be served. If a case cannot be served in three attempts, a fee of $50 shall be charged for each Alias Summons issued thereafter. Any other subsequent paperwork requiring service by the Sheriff will cost $50 to serve.
If you are filing a Small Claims suit, you are the Plaintiff, and the person sued is the Defendant. In order to start an action, you must file a Small Claims Affidavit, a copy of which is available from the Court. The Small Claims Affidavit and Summons are relatively self-explanatory and can be easily filled in if you read the form. Please type if possible; if you cannot have it typed, you may print in black ink. You must fill in both the Affidavit and the Summons. On the Summons, fill in everything except the dates; the Clerk will complete this portion. Please note that the Affidavit is a sworn statement, and should be signed in person at the Court’s office. If you wish to file by mail, or have someone else bring in your papers, your signature must be notarized (that is, you must sign it before a Notary Public). We cannot accept pre-signed Affidavits.
The Teton County Circuit Court requires that you supply a mailing address for both Plaintiff and Defendant. This information should be filled in at the top of both the Affidavit and the Summons, on the double lines. You must also supply an exact physical address or location – residence or employment (In Teton County or both – where the Defendant(s) can be served with the papers by the Sheriff. Telephone numbers are also required, preferably daytime phone numbers where the parties can be reached during normal from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are filing a single case against two or more Defendants (such as husband and wife), you may want to consider issuing a separate Summons for each Defendant, and paying $50 for each to the Sheriff’s Office for service.
If the service information supplied to the Sheriff is insufficient for service to be accomplished, the Sheriff will return the summons as unserved but will keep the fee. A subsequent summons on the same case, if authorized by the Court, will require another service fee. For this reason, it is essential that you supply sufficient details for service to be accomplished. When you file your Small Claims suit, a hearing date will be set for your trial. Wyoming Court Rules require that service must be made by the Sheriff in no less than three days and not more than twelve days from the date set for the hearing. Therefore, there is a short nine-day window during which service must be made; if it cannot be made, the Summons will be returned by the Sheriff as unserved.
When you file your Small Claims suit, the Clerk will set a hearing date for your case. This is when you and the Defendant will argue your case in Court before the Judge. Small Claims Court is held on Tuesday mornings in the Circuit Courtroom of the Teton County Courthouse, located at the corner of King and Simpson Streets in Jackson.
The Clerk will give or mail you a copy of your Affidavit and a copy of the Summons, and will see that the appropriate papers are delivered to the Sheriff’s Office with your service fee. The Sheriff will make every attempt to serve the copy of the Affidavit and Summons on your Defendant within the nine-day period required. If the Defendant(s) are not served during this time period, an Alias Summons can be issued with a different Court date. You will be required to provide a $50 service fee for each attempt at service of the Defendant(s). It is for this reason that you must be sure of the accuracy of the service address you supply.
The Sheriff’s Office will serve the copy of the Affidavit and Summons on the Defendant and will return the original Summons to the Court. You will need to call the Court to check on the status of service. If the papers have not been served on or by the Friday before your scheduled Court date, an Alias Summons can be issued with a later Court date and this will give the Sheriff’s Office another chance to serve the papers.
The most important thing to do in getting ready for your Court appearance is to know the exact date and time of your trial (hearing) and to be there on time.
You should get together any papers, documents, bills, receipts or pictures that might have something to do with the case, and you should bring them with you when you appear for your trial. You must bring 3 copies of all material you wish to submit to the Judge as evidence (one copy, preferably the original, for the Judge; one copy for yourself; and one copy for your opposing party). You may also bring witness; people who can help explain why you are entitled to the money you are suing for. Make sure your witnesses know the exact date and time for the trial, and then make sure they show up!
If you need to have a witness subpoenaed, in the event that he or she will not appear voluntarily, ask the Clerk for a subpoena. This must be done no less than 5 days before your trial date. You will need an exact physical address for the witness, and the Sheriff’s Office will charge you $50 to serve each subpoena.
If the Plaintiff does not appear for the trial on the scheduled Court date, the case will be dismissed. If the Defendant does not appear, the Plaintiff will be sworn to testify about the matter. In most instances the failure of the Defendant to appear will result in a Default Judgment, which means that the Plaintiff has won the case for the amount claimed in the Affidavit (up to the maximum jurisdiction of the Court, plus Court costs), and the money must be paid by the Defendant. Cost comprise the $10 filing fee, the $50 service fee, and any other service fees to the Sheriff which have been paid in advance by the Plaintiff.
There are no juries at a Small Claims hearing; it is just a simple, informal hearing before the Judge. At the hearing, the Plaintiff will first tell his or her story to the Judge. If you have papers, documents, photos or witnesses to help explain your case, use them (remember that you must have three copies of anything you want to submit to the Judge as evidence). The Plaintiff has the burden of proof, so it is important that you explain to the Judge at the hearing why every penny and every item of the claim is due to you. When the Plaintiff has finished, the Defendant then gets a chance to tell his or her version to the Judge; the Defendant may also use papers, documents, or photos (three copies required) or witnesses.
Both parties should be clear and concise; it is wise to have your arguments well thought out in advance. Do not be afraid to talk to the Judge; he is there to be fair to you. After hearing both side and seeing their evidence, the Judge may make an immediate decision as to who is right and who is wrong, and who owes whom money. If he announces his decision, the Clerk will also give you (or arrange to mail to you) a copy of the Judgment. If the Judge does not make an immediate decision, he will take the matter under advisement and you will be notified later, by mail, of the decision. In this instance, it is necessary that the Court have the correct mailing addresses for both parties.