2013 North Dakota Century Code
Title 27 Judicial Branch of Government
Chapter 27-08.1 Small Claims Court


Download as PDF CHAPTER 27-08.1 SMALL CLAIMS COURT 27-08.1-01. Small claims court - Jurisdictional limits - Venue. 1. All judges of the district courts may exercise the jurisdiction conferred by this chapter, and while sitting in the exercise of that jurisdiction must be known and referred to as the "small claims court". The jurisdiction of this court is confined to cases for recovery of money, or the cancellation of any agreement involving material fraud, deception, misrepresentation, or false promise, when the value of the agreement or the amount claimed by the plaintiff or the defendant does not exceed fifteen thousand dollars. 2. The proceedings in this court must be commenced: a. If the defendant is a corporation, limited liability company, or a partnership, in any county in which the defendant has a place of business or in any county in which the subject matter of the claim occurred. b. If the claim is for collection of a check written without sufficient funds or without an account, in the county where the check was passed, or in the county of the defendant's residence or place of business. c. If the defendant is an individual and the claim is for collection of an open account on which credit has been extended: (1) In the county of the defendant's residence or place of business; or (2) If the amount of the claim is less than one thousand dollars and is not from a telephone or mail order transaction, in the county where the transaction occurred or in the county of the defendant's residence or place of business. d. If the defendant is an individual and the claim is not made under subdivision b or c, in the county of the defendant's residence. e. If the defendant is an individual and the claim arose as the result of the defendant's lease of real property, in the county where the defendant resides or in the county where the real property is located. f. If the plaintiff is a political subdivision and the claim is for a public utility debt, in the county in which the political subdivision is located. 3. Except for an action under subdivision c, e, or f of subsection 2, the defendant may elect to remove the action to a small claims court in the defendant's county of residence. A claim may not be filed by an assignee of that claim. A garnishment or attachment may not issue from this court until after judgment is entered. 27-08.1-02. Commencement of action - Claim affidavit. Actions in the small claims court are commenced whenever any person executes and files with the court a claim affidavit, and causes the affidavit to be served by a person of legal age, not a party to or interested in the action, on the defendant or mails it to the defendant by certified mail along with a form upon which the defendant must indicate whether a hearing is requested and whether the defendant elects to remove the action to district court. If, within twenty days of service of the affidavit and form, the court has not received a request for a hearing or an election to remove to district court, or if the defendant indicates that a hearing is not requested, a hearing will not be scheduled and judgment may be entered against the defendant by default. If the defendant requests a hearing in small claims court, the hearing must be not less than ten days and not more than thirty days after receipt of the request. Except for an action under subdivision e of subsection 2 of section 27-08.1-01, the mailing or personal service may be made anywhere within the state. Forms used in small claims court actions must be approved by the state court administrator and obtained from, or at the direction of, the clerk of district court or in electronic form from the supreme court. 27-08.1-03. Informal hearing - Answer and counterclaim - Filing and service fees Examination of debtor. No formal pleadings other than the claim affidavit and order for appearance may be required, and the hearing and disposition of actions must be informal. A court reporter is not Page No. 1 required to be present to take the testimony unless arranged for and paid for by one of the parties to the action. The defendant may file an answer, and file a claim affidavit setting forth any new matter constituting a counterclaim, not to exceed fifteen thousand dollars, which must be served upon the plaintiff by a person of legal age, not a party to or interested in the action, or mailed to the plaintiff by certified mail, not later than forty-eight hours before the hearing set for the appearance of the defendant. The compulsory counterclaim rule does not apply to counterclaims in excess of fifteen thousand dollars. At the hearing, the plaintiff and the defendant may appear without counsel. The court will conduct the proceedings and may make its own inquiry before, during, or after the hearing. After the court has found that money is owing by any party to the proceeding, the court may, in the presence of the prevailing party, inquire of the debtor as to plans for payment of the debt. The court may examine the debtor concerning the property owned by the debtor, at the hearing, as would be made under chapter 28-25. The examination may be made without first having issued an execution against the property of the debtor and without further notice as otherwise provided in chapter 28-25. A trial by jury is not allowed in small claims court. A fee as prescribed in subdivision c of subsection 1 of section 27-05.2-03 must be charged for filing the claim affidavit. 27-08.1-04. Election to proceed in small claims court irrevocable. Election by the plaintiff to use the procedures provided for in this chapter is irrevocable. In the event the plaintiff elects to discontinue the proceedings, the court shall enter its order accordingly, and unless otherwise provided in the order the dismissal must be deemed to be with prejudice. By election to proceed in small claims court, the plaintiff waives the right to appeal to any other court from the decision of the small claims court. The defendant waives the right to appeal from the decision of the small claims court upon receiving the order for appearance as required herein, unless the defendant elects to remove the action from the small claims court to district court. If the defendant elects to remove the action to district court, the defendant must serve upon the plaintiff a notice of the removal and file with the clerk of the court to which the action is removed a copy of the claim affidavit and the defendant's answer along with the filing fee, except for an answer fee, required for civil actions. If the defendant elects to remove the action from small claims court to district court, the district court shall award attorney's fees to a prevailing plaintiff. 27-08.1-04.1. Dismissal without prejudice. If the judge determines at any stage of the proceedings that the case may not be fairly disposed of in small claims court, the judge may dismiss the case without prejudice. A determination that a case may not be fairly disposed of in small claims court must be based on complexity of factual or legal issues or a determination that relief other than money damages or cancellation of an agreement is necessary to dispose of the case. If a case is dismissed under this section, the filing fee must be refunded to the plaintiff. 27-08.1-05. Judgment. The court shall enter a written judgment indicating its decision on all cases filed with the court on the basis of the evidence presented. A judgment must be entered even if either party fails to appear at the hearing. The court may award the costs of the action to the prevailing party. For purposes of enforcement and execution, a judgment of the small claims court has the same force, effects, and attributes of a judgment of the district court. 27-08.1-06. Judgment unsatisfied - Docketing - Execution. Repealed by S.L. 1997, ch. 263, ยง 5. 27-08.1-07. Records and destruction of records. Unless otherwise authorized by rules of the supreme court, records of the small claims court consist of all documents filed in each action and an index for plaintiffs and defendants. Unless otherwise directed by rules of the supreme court, after the judgment is satisfied or becomes ten years old, the court may destroy all papers filed in the case, except the judgment. At the time of Page No. 2 destroying the papers, the clerk of court shall make a record upon the judgment identifying the papers destroyed and the dates the papers were filed. 27-08.1-08. Referees of small claims court - Appointment - Term - Method of qualifying - Powers and duties - Compensation. The presiding judge of the judicial district may appoint a referee of the small claims court who shall hold office at the pleasure of the judge. The referee shall qualify in the same manner as other civil officers, except that the referee need not be a qualified elector of the county, and the duties and powers of the referee in the conduct of trials in the small claims court are governed by the provisions of rule 53(c) of the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure insofar as those provisions are not in conflict with the provisions of this chapter. The referee appointed must be a person versed in the law. The presiding judge shall determine the salary or fee of the referee, within the limits of legislative appropriations. Page No. 3

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