How do I know if my case qualifies for Small Claims Court and what can I expect (e.g., can I hire a lawyer to represent me)?
Unlike some other states, in Utah small claims cases, you may be represented by a lawyer or you may represent yourself. (See Rule 13, Utah Rules of Small Claims Procedure.)
Small claims cases are to recover money (e.g., from damage to your property, bodily injuries, etc.). The amount of money claimed (or the ultimate judgement) may not exceed $10,000 including attorney fees. (Court costs and interest does not count against this amount.) If your money recovery claim is for more than $10,000, you must file your civil complaint in the District Court in your jurisdiction. (See Utah Code 78A-8-102.)
A small claims case must be filed in the Justice Court where the defendant resides or where the claim arose (i.e., where the event happened or the debt accrued).
Many small claims hearings are conducted by judges pro tempore, which are volunteer lawyers appointed by the Utah Supreme Court and have almost all of the authority of a judge.
The party filing the claim is the plaintiff. The party responding to the claim is the defendant.
In small claims cases, the Rules of Evidence are not strictly enforced, meaning the judge may allow, e.g., hearsay that is relevant, trustworthy and credible.
You can and should consult an attorney to help you determine in which court to file your small claims case, what documents to file, how to serve notice on the other party, or whether your claim is timely (i.e., within the statute of limitation). You can schedule a free 30 minute consultation with Hoyer Law Firm to get you started!