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Small Claims Court was established to provide a simple, informal procedure for people to settle certain legal problems cheaply and quickly. In Small Claims Court, you can sue someone or be sued by someone, and you present your side of the case yourself. You cannot be represented by a lawyer. This court handles only fairly simple cases involving small amounts of money or property.
The purpose of providing this information is to help you decide whether or not you should use the Kansas Small Claims Court to solve a problem, and to help you understand how the court works. Please remember that procedures vary somewhat from county to county in the state. Always check with your District Court Clerk's office first to be sure you have all of the correct information before taking action in Small Claims Court.
Consumers should remember that even though they may win their case in Small Claims Court, the court cannot guarantee and is not responsible for collection. Appeals of Small Claims must be filed in District Court which usually means hiring an attorney.
Also, the job of court personnel is to process cases. They cannot give out legal advice.
The following restrictions apply to small claims cases:
You may sue any person or business in Kansas that you believe owes you money or property. You may not sue the State or a local governmental unit in small claims court.
If your case meets the requirements noted above, you should file your claim by going to the Small Claims Division of the office of the District Court. You should have with you the required filing fee and the name and address of the person(s) you are suing.
You should also decide ahead of time the exact amount you want to recover and be prepared to give a written explanation of your case.
You may then fill out the petition at the Clerk's Office and file it, or you may take it home to complete and file later. The petition must be notarized or signed before the Clerk.
Once you have filed your claim, a hearing date will be set for you. Then, a summons, along with a copy of your petition, will be served by the Sheriff's Department to the person being sued.
If the defendant in your case cannot be located, you should contact the court for a continuance to give you more time to find a good address for the defendant. It is your responsibility to contact the Clerk before each court date with a new address or whatever information you may have so that the person(s) can be found.
If you settle the case before the hearing date, notify the court at once so that the case can be dismissed.
Small Claims Court proceedings are conducted informally by the judge. You should be prepared when you arrive for your hearing to clearly explain your side of the case. Bring whatever evidence, papers, documents, or other material you need to prove or support your case. You may subpoena witnesses, and you or the judge may question them about the case. A witness fee must be paid to subpoena a witness who is unwilling to appear.
The defendant will, of course, also be allowed to present their case to the judge.
If the defendant has filed a counterclaim against you, that may be heard at the same time. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may either make a decision immediately after hearing both sides or may continue the case to another date. If the defendant was served and does not show up for the hearing, the judge may declare the defendant in default and award judgment to the plaintiff.
Once the judge has announced a decision in a case, the Small Claims procedure is over. It is up to you to collect what is owed you if you win. If you lose, an appeal may be filed in District Court. Appeals do cost more money, since they involve payment of another filing fee, legal advice from an attorney, ect.
If you have won the case, you are the Judgment Creditor. The loser of the case is the Judgment Debtor. The Small Claims Procedure Clerk will give you (the Judgment Creditor) a form entitled "Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets". This form is to be used to help in the collection of the judgment, as the basis for proceedings such as Execution and Garnishments of wages and bank accounts or other property, if that becomes necessary.
The loser (Judgment Debtor) has 10 days after the judgment is entered to file an appeal.
Unless an appeal has been filed or full payment made to you or the Clerk of the Court within 15 days of the date of judgment, you (Judgment Creditor) are required to do the following:
Following the judgment, both parties have the right to appeal and get a new hearing from a new judge. Appeals must be filed in writing within 10 days of the judgment. These appeals must be filed in District Court and there are no simplified forms or procedures, so you may wish to consult an attorney.
If you are being sued in small claims, and you do owe the other party money or property, pay what you owe and you will not have to appear in court. Be sure the court is notified in writing of such a settlement.
If you have a claim against the plaintiff (the party suing you) in connection with the same matter that his claim concerns, you may file a counterclaim. Fill out the "Defendant's Claim" form that came with the summons and return it as soon as possible to the court where the hearing is to take place.
If you do not settle the claim against you out of court, then you must appear in court at the time scheduled or the judge can rule against you. Bring with you any papers that will support your side of the dispute, and any witnesses who can speak on your behalf. (You too may subpoena witnesses for a fee.) The judge will give both you and the other party a chance to speak before he makes his decision. If the judge decides against you, you are legally bound to pay to the plaintiff whatever the judge orders you to pay. You may appeal the judge's decision.
Detailed information about the small claims procedure appears on the printed forms you must use to file your case. If you decide to use the small claims procedure you may obtain forms from the Clerk of the District Court, Small Claims Division.
If you have a complex case or one that involves a claim over $1,800 you may wish to consult an attorney regarding other forms of legal action. An attorney can tell you what these other actions will cost and help you decide what is the best course for you to take.