States — A Closer Look at Small Claims
State rules for collecting your judgment
The Kentucky Revised Statutes address Small Claims in order to improve the administration of justice in small noncriminal cases and make the judicial system more available and comprehensible to the public and allow those seeking small claims judgments to be able to do so on their own behalf (KRS 24A.200 to 24A.360). The law provides for an efficient and inexpensive forum which will allow cases to be decided in a speedy manner.
Any person, business or corporation with a claim for money or personal property of $1,500 or less or who wishes to rescind or avoid a contract or agreement in the same amount may file a claim in the small claims court. The District Court is the forum for small claims cases. If the amount exceeds $1,500, you can either choose to lower the amount so that it meets the court’s monetary limit; or you can move your case to a more formal court.
Some persons and organizations are prohibited from filing small claims cases. These include:
- A person or organization in the business of lending money with interest;
- A collection agency;
- A person or organization who has purchased a debt from a third party; or,
- A person or organization filing a class action.
If the person filing the claim or being sued is under the age of 18, his/her parents or guardians would have to be responsible.
Cases that Can be Filed in This Court
Small Claims court in Kentucky can hear any of the following cases:
- Goods not delivered or paid for;
- Auto negligence;
- Landlord/tenant disputes;
- Car repair disputes;
- Property damage;
- Recovery of personal property.
No cases involving criminal actions; libel or slander; malicious prosecution; or, abuse of process will be heard in the small claims division of the District Court.
Commencing the Action
While the cases are heard in a special division of the District Court in Kentucky, all small claims must be filed with the clerk of the Circuit Court. You need to go to the clerk’s office and file the appropriate form, or you can fill out the form online, print it out and file it at the clerk’s office. When you file the form, you will need to pay the appropriate fee.
You will need to have the correct address of the person, business, or corporation you are suing. Keep in mind that a corporation may have an address other than the address of the location where the breach took place — you will need to have the proper one.
Furthermore, you will include an explanation of the reason you feel you are owed the money or the return of property. The clerk will give you the date of the hearing and will begin the process of serving the defendant. It will be your responsibility to check with the clerk to be sure the paper was served; it is not their responsibility to notify you.
Either party may have an attorney in Kentucky. However, if a corporation is sued, they must be represented by a company official, or an attorney. So if you are suing a corporation, you might want to consider hiring an attorney.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations in Kentucky, as in other states, is dependent upon the basis of the lawsuit as each type of case has a different time limitation.
- Written contracts — 15 years
- Oral contracts — 5 years
- Personal injury — 1 year
- Property damage — 5 years for real estate
Either side can appeal the decision of the small claims court, but these appeals are based solely on legal considerations or errors. There will be no review of the facts and no new facts can be introduced. A notice of appeal must be filed with the Circuit Court within 10 days of the original court’s ruling. You will then have additional paperwork and fees to pay within 30 days of the notice of appeal. You can request to present your arguments orally, but if you do not make such a request, the appeals court decision will be based on the information presented.
If you win the judgment, the judge will give the defendant time to pay the amount owed. If the defendant fails to pay within 10 after the due date, you will need to take further action. The court however, has no further responsibility of power to collect.
You can try to collect on your own, garnish wages, or bank accounts, place liens on property, or place judgment liens against the defendant and his/her property. Small claims judgments are valid for 15 years after the court’s ruling.
For a more complete list of methods to collect the judgement you are entitled to, see our General Methods for Collecting Your Judgment article in our collection of articles on judgment collection resources. The methods are generally the same in all states, though the procedures you need to follow may differ in different jurisdictions.
collecting your judgment
Article of the month
What You Should Know
Before You File a Claim
States—A Closer Look at Small Claims
This month’s focus: Michigan
- Demand Letter (before the suit is filed)
- Demand Letter (after the judgment is awarded)
Note: The first letter was originally published by one of our authors, Pat Schroeder, at http://www.thelawinsider.com/insider-tips/how-to-write-a-demand-letter/.
Collect Your Judgment Links
- ABA Guide to Solving Legal Disputes, Chapter 5, Small Claims
- ADR—Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Clients Guide to Language and Procedure, Chapter 5
- Small Claims Court Terms
Tip of the Week
September 27, 2010
If you have been awarded a judgment, waited the 30 days required, sent a demand letter giving the debtor a time limit for paying his/her debt; what should you do if you still have no money? You know that the court can do little, but before you take steps to garnish wages or bank accounts, consider suggesting negotiation or mediation if the debtor gives any impression that they want to settle the matter.