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Changes to Small Claims Cases

moneyIf you file a small claims case on or after September 1, 2010, you must file the case in a justice court. The only exception is if there is no justice court in the jurisdiction; at the present time, this is only in Cache County.

So now that you know you have to file your case in a justice court, how do you know which one? There are two main rules to remember: you can file where the defendant resides or where the cause of action arose. For example, if the defendant resides in Salt Lake City and the cause of action (ex. car accident, non-payment of rent, etc.) arose in West Valley, you can file your case in Salt Lake City justice court or West Valley justice court. You cannot, however, file the case in Salt Lake County justice court because a city justice court is available to adjudicate the case.

Here's a few other examples: if the defendant resides in Hurricane and the cause of action arose in Hurricane, you have to file in Hurricane City justice court. You don't have any other options. The same is true if the defendant resides in unincorporated Salt Lake County and that's where the cause of action arose. You must file in Salt Lake County justice court. If you are having trouble figuring out where to file, remember you can always file where the defendant resides. That may be easier than figuring out where the cause of action arose.

The new rule is codified in the Code of Judicial Administration Rule 4-801. Effective September 1, 2010, the new rule states:

"Small claims actions shall be filed in a justice court with territorial jurisdiction. If there is no justice court with territorial jurisdiction, the case may be filed in the district court, and the plaintiff shall state why no justice court has jurisdiction. If a small claims affidavit, without the required statement, is presented for filing in a district court, the clerk should reject it with instructions to file in a justice court with jurisdiction. If the clerk fails to reject it initially, the affidavit and filing fee shall be returned to the plaintiff when the deficiency is first noticed."

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