Cochise County Justice Courts Small Claims Division Instructions to the Plaintiff
Information for filing a claim in the Small Claims Division in the Justice Court
Remember, every action is your responsibility.
This is your case and there are certain steps you must follow to pursue it properly. This information is provided to assist you in general procedure in pursuing your case to conclusion. The clerks in the Justice Court are not attorneys and are not authorized to give legal advice. It is not their responsibility to advise you if you have a legal claim or what you should put on your claim. They are not responsible to advise you of any errors you may make. The court does not take sides nor render an opinion as to the merits of a claim.
You may file an amount not to exceed $3,500.00. You may reduce a larger claim to the maximum allowable and waive the remaining amount. You may not split a claim and file two separate actions. You may file for court costs in addition to the maximum allowed. Court costs may include but are not limited to filing and service fees.
You may not file in Small Claims Division if the matter involves the following:
- A claim of defamation, of libel, or slander.
- Actions for specific performance.
- Brought or defended on behalf of a class.
- An action requesting or involving pre-judgment remedies.
- Seeking injunctive relief.
- Traffic violations or criminal matters.
- Seeking awards of body attachments.
- Claims against this state, its officers or employees of any city, county or other political subdivision.
Your case may be heard either by a Justice of the Peace or a Hearing Officer, at the discretion of the court.
The decision of the judge or hearing officer is final and cannot be appealed. If you wish to have an appeal process available, you must file in the Civil Division.
You must be the original owner of a claim. You may not sue on an assigned claim.
Attorneys cannot represent either party in the Small Claims Division unless:
- Both parties agree to the use of attorneys and file a Stipulation to Use of Attorneys form for which the court can provide. This form must be filed at least 24 hours before the scheduled court date.
- A party has the right to choose to be represented by counsel and may file a request to transfer the case to the Civil Division of this court. The case will then automatically be transferred to the Civil Division and appropriate fees assessed to the party requesting the transfer.
This section is not intended to limit or otherwise interfere with a party's right to employ counsel to pursue his or her rights and remedies after the entry of judgment in a small claims action.
A small claims case may be transferred to the Civil Division by either party up to ten (10) days prior to the day of the scheduled hearing. The party requesting the transfer will be assessed a transfer fee before processing of the case can continue. If a small claims trial date has been set before the transfer, you will be informed by this court if the trial will be held on the scheduled date or if the trial date will be vacated and reset to a later date. Attorneys filing an answer for the defendant without the Stipulation to Use of Attorneys form will pay the answer fee for the Civil Division. You must know the name and address of the party against whom you are filing your action. Be sure that you have the correct party to be sued, especially if you are suing a corporation or business and/or one of its employees.
The court in which an action is to be filed is determined by where the defendant resides or does business (if you are suing a business), or where the cause of action occurred. The clerks are not responsible to verify whether or not your filing is correct.
A corporation authorized to transact business in the State of Arizona is required to maintain a statutory agent, [A.R.S. 10-501] upon whom process may be served [A.R.S. 10-504]. The name and address of the statutory agent may be obtained by contacting the Arizona Corporation Commission by phone in Tucson at 1-800-345-5819.
When filing against a corporation, it is recommended that you contact the Corporation Commission and obtain the correct corporate name of the corporation, and the name and address of its statutory agent. (Caution: The statutory agent is not the defendant. The statutory agent is the party upon whom service may be made on behalf of the corporation.)
"Every action shall be prosecuted in the name of the Real Party in Interest, [Rule 17(a) R.C.P.]." When filing on behalf of, or against an unincorporated business, it is necessary that the true name or names of the party doing business under that business name be shown as plaintiff or defendant. This information may be obtained by contacting the Arizona Secretary of State by phone in Tucson at (520) 628-6583.
Partnerships may sue, or be sued, in the names which they have assumed, or by which they are known [Rule 17(j) R.C.P.].
The pleading (whether a complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim) shall set forth a short and plain statement that contains (1) The amount due; (2) Why it is due; (3) A demand to receive what is due. [Rule 8 R.C.P.].
Filing fees are payable at the time of filing the complaint.
The defendant must be served with a copy of the Complaint/Summons per A.R.S. 22-513, Method of Service:
"In addition to any other available methods of service, the plaintiff may serve the summons and complaint by registered or certified mail. Service is deemed complete on the date of delivery of the registered or certified mail to the defendant as indicated on the return receipt. If the defendant cannot be served by registered or certified mail, personal service by a process server may be used."
To ensure your return receipt is signed by the named party defendant, you must have restricted delivery on your mailing.
The defendant has twenty (20) calendar days from the date of service in which to file an answer in writing to the complaint [Rule 12(a) R.C.P.]. In computing the time in which to file an answer, the date of service shall not be included. If the twentieth day falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or legal holiday, the answer may be filed on the next immediate judicial day [Rule 6(a) R.C.P.]. Exception: If served out of state, by registered mail, or by publication, the party so served shall have thirty (30) calendar days in which to answer [Rule 4.2(m) R.C.P.].
If the defendant files a counterclaim in the action, the plaintiff (counter-defendant) has twenty (20) calendar days from the date of service in which to file a reply in writing to the counterclaim [Rule 12(a) R.C.P.]. There is no fee for filing a reply to a counterclaim. If the counterclaim exceeds $3,500.00 the case will be immediately transferred to the Civil Division of the Justice Court depending on the amount and appropriate transfer fees shall be paid.
Mediation and Arbitration
The following cases may be settled through Mediation or Arbitration:
Small Claims/Money demand
Broken agreements or settlements
Other Interpersonal conflicts
Arbitration and mediation are methods that use third-party neutrals to settle conflicts as an alternative to litigation. The Court will review each case once an answer has been filed, and if appropriate, will refer the case to Alternative Dispute Resolution to be scheduled for a hearing with a trained, certified arbitrator/mediator from the area.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Office will notify the parties by mail of the time, date and location for the hearing. At that time, litigants should be prepared to present and defend their case as though they were appearing before the Judge.
At the hearing, the parties will be allowed to present evidence and testimony to the arbitrator and he or she will make a decision based on the facts presented during the hearing. If the arbitrator's decision is not accepted by the parties due to an error in law, the case may be appealed by any party and the Court will set a trial date.
However, if during the hearing the litigants are willing, and can work together, the facilitator may assist the parties in crafting a mediated agreement that is mutually beneficial to all parties and resolves the matter without further need for judicial intervention. Mediated agreements cannot be appealed.
For more information, contact:
Cochise County Superior Court
Office of the Court Administrator, Alternative Dispute Resolution Program
PO Box 204, Bisbee, AZ 85603, (520) 432-8483
If your action comes to trial you should educate yourself as to court procedure and what is admissible evidence. As the person who brought the suit, it is your responsibility to prove by the greater weight of evidence that you have a legal right to the amount you are claiming. You must be able to itemize how you arrived at the amount you are seeking.
If you fail to appear at the trial, your complaint may be dismissed, and the defendant may be awarded his or her costs and/or attorney's fees incurred to defend the action.
A copy of the written decision (Judgment) will be mailed to each party. This is a final judgment and cannot be appealed to a higher court.
If a defendant fails to submit an answer to the complaint within twenty (20) calendar days after service, the plaintiff may apply for an entry of default against the defendant for the purpose of obtaining a Judgment by Default. A Default Judgment is one that is obtained without a trial because the defendant failed to answer or otherwise defend the action. However, the court may request the plaintiff to furnish proof of the allegations contained in the complaint to substantiate its demand. This proof would be presented at a Default Hearing or by attaching it to the Application of Default.
If a counterclaim has been filed and the plaintiff fails to reply to the counterclaim within twenty (20) days, then the counter-claimant (defendant) may obtain a Default Judgment against the counter defendant (plaintiff) on the counterclaim in the same manner as the plaintiff may obtain a Default Judgment against the defendant on a complaint.
An Application for Entry of Default or Affidavit of Default must be mailed to the defaulting party [Rule 55(a) R.C.P.].
If the party claimed to be in default fails to file a responsive pleading or otherwise defend in the action within ten (10) judicial days of the filing of the application or affidavit, a Default Judgment will be entered against that party, or a Default Hearing will be set (plaintiff will be the only one notified of the date).
You do not have the right to appeal the decision of the justice of the peace or hearing officer in the small claims division. If you want the right to appeal, please file your case in the Civil Division.
Enforcing Small Claims Judgments
First, make written demand of the defendant to pay the judgment amount. If the defendant does not pay, the court, at your request, will provide you with papers necessary to garnish the defendant's assets such as bank accounts, wages, or other income property. You must provide the information and fill out and file the necessary forms.The court does not collect for you.
Once you are paid in full you must file a Satisfaction of Judgment with the court.
This form is available from the court.
If your judgment is the result of an automobile accident and remains unpaid sixty (60) days after judgment has been entered, notify the Clerk of the Court and he/she will notify the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division, pursuant to A.R.S. 28-4071 and A.R.S. 28-4072.
Should you have any questions concerning the action you have filed, you may call any Justice Court or go to the Civil Division of any of the Cochise County Justice Courts to have your questions answered.
Always refer to your case number; cases are filed by number, not by name.
Defendant Information Examples:
John Smith, D. B. A.
Two or More Defendants:
ABC Candy Store, Inc.
John Smith; Mary Jones
(If addresses won t fit here, place
Husband & Wife:
John and Mary Smith, H/W
SERVE: John Smith
John Smith and Joe Jones
SERVE: John Smith
Parents of a Minor:
John and Mary Smith, H/W