What is Small Claims For?
The small claims division of justice court was created to simply the lawsuit process for the average person.
Any individual, partnership, association or corporation may file a small claims suit for a situation in which the dispute is for $3,500 or less.
Attorneys are not allowed in small claims court unless both parties agree.
The Arizona Supreme Court publishes and routinely updates its Rules of Small Claims Procedure. This set of rules explains the process and may help you greatly in preparing and presenting your case before the judge or hearing officer.
Where Can a Small Claims Case be Filed?
"Venue" means where you file your case. There are 26 justice court precincts in Maricopa County.
For Small Claims the correct precinct will generally depend on where the transaction, agreement, or dispute occurred. Usually this will be the address of the person or business that will be named as the defendant. There are exceptions to this rule, as provided in Arizona Revised Statutes, Chapter 22-202.
You may enter an address on the Maricopa County Recorder's Office precinct finder to determine the proper justice court.
If the complaint is filed in the wrong precinct, the defendant may file a Motion for Change of Venue. This must be done before filing a Small Claims Answer. The plaintiff has the opportunity to file an objection to the requested change.
If the judge orders a change of venue, the case shall be transferred to the proper precinct and the plaintiff shall pay all fees. If the defendant fails to file a timely request for a change of venue, that right is waived.
Why File Small Claims?
The types of claims that can be filed in the small claims division include:
- money debts
- personal injury
- property damage
- breach of contract
We always suggest that people should try to settle their disputes and disagreements out of court whenever possible. If an agreement cannot be reached, a small claims complaint may be appropriate.
Statutes of Limitations
Time limits in civil actions accrue from the date the events that gave rise to the action occurred.* The time limits apply to both civil suits and small claims. Please note, this list is meant as a general guide. Not all of the cases listed below can be filed or heard in Justice Court. Click here to view the Arizona laws outlining statutes of limitation.
- 60 Days - security deposits (ARS 33-tba)
- One year - Malicious prosecution; false imprisonment; breach of employment contract; wrongful termination; liability created by statute (ARS 12-541)
- Two years - Personal injury; injury when death ensues; damage to property; conversion of property; product liability (ARS 12-542)
- Three years - Debt from oral contract; stated or open account; relief on ground of fraud or mistake (ARS 12-542)
- Four years - Bond to convey realty; partnership account; account between merchants; judgment or instrument given or made without the state; bond of personal representative or guardian (ARS 12-544, 545, 546)
- Six years - Written contracts for debt (ARS 12-548)
- Four years - Actions for which no limitation is otherwise prescribed (other than for recovery of real property) (ARS 12-550)
*Under some special circumstances, time limits can be extended or deferred. Please consult an attorney to determine if these circumstances apply to your case.
There are no appeals in Small Claims court. The ruling of the Hearing Officer or Judge is final.