How to File a Small Claims Suit in Arizona

How to File a Small Claims Suit in ArizonaYavapai County Courthouse
How to File a Small Claims Suit in Arizona | desertsolitaire/iStock/GettyImages

Arizona’s Justice Court oversees small claims when the plaintiff is seeking relief of $3,500 or less. Title 22 of Arizona Revised Statutes governs the adjudication of small claims for the entire state, so most procedures are the same from county-to-county. However, plaintiffs bringing small claims in Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa and Pinal counties must file county-specific forms.

Make Sure Your Claim is Eligible for Small Claims

Not all civil lawsuits can be heard as small claims; make sure your case qualifies.

Cases Eligible for Small Claims

Arizona’s Justice Court hears small claims for many common actions, as long as the plaintiff is seeking monetary relief of $3,500 or less. The hearing officer or Justice of the Peace will hear cases regarding:

  • Debts owed
  • Personal Injury
  • Damage to Property
  • Contract Disputes

Cases Not Eligible for Small Claims:

The Justice Court cannot hear small claims cases:

  • Requesting more than $3,500 in relief
  • Involving defamation
  • Requesting eviction from property
  • Requesting specific performance, which means that you want the judge to compel the defendant to execute a contract
  • Requesting injunctive relief, such as the release of a lien
  • Brought as a class action with several plaintiffs
  • Brought against the state of Arizona

Consider the Restrictions of Small Claims

The small claims division of the Justice Court was created to, “allow the inexpensive, speedy and informal resolution of small claims.” However, by participating in small claims, you waive your right to:

  • Representation by an attorney
  • Jury trial
  • Appeal of the Judge’s decision

Determine Where to File Your Claim

Your small claims case must be heard in either the county in which the defendant lives, or where his business is located. If the defendant is not a resident of Arizona, you may file the case in the county where you live. Check the Arizona Courts Locator for location and contact information of the county Justice Court.

Complete the Complaint/Summons

Provide:

  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the defendant
  • The type of case you’re filing
  • A short summary of the issue
  • The dollar amount of relief you’re requesting

Find online forms for claims in Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa and Pinal counties on the Arizona TurboCourt website, or obtain them from the Justice Court clerk in each specific county. All other counties use the standard Summons/Complaint Form, available online or from the county Justice Court clerk.

File and Pay Fees

Make several copies of your Summons/Complaint forms; you’ll need two for the court, one for each defendant and a copy for your records.

File with the clerk at the county Justice Court and pay the applicable filing fees. The court clerk will assign a case number and complete the remaining blanks on each form.

Pay filing fees. The initial filing fee for small claims cases is $24, as established by state statute. Additional county fees may apply.

Serve the Defendant with the Complaint/Summons

You’re required to serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint and a summons, which notifies him of the lawsuit against him and compels him to appear in court. For small claims cases in Arizona, the complaint and summons are the same form.

To serve the defendant:

  • Mail a certified or registered copy to his home or business address
  • Have a constable, sheriff, deputy or private process server deliver a copy personally to the defendant.