Courts - Trial Information for Plaintiffs and Defendants

Attorneys

Small Claims cases are informal. Parties are encouraged to represent themselves. You may hire an attorney, but it is not necessary.

Settlement

If the claim is settled before the trial date, a Small Claims Motion to Dismiss and Order form must be submitted to the court, before the trial date.

Evidence and Witnesses

It is extremely important that you bring with you to trial all witnesses and papers necessary to prove your claim or defense. If you fail to do this, the case may be decided against you.

The Utah Rules of Evidence will generally be followed because they are designed to foster accurate fact finding. While the Rules serve as appropriate guidelines in Small Claims trials, judges are free to depart from their strict application when justice dictates.

Evidence must be offered through the statements of live witnesses at trial, except that written statements such as repair bids, appraisals, repair bills and medical bills may be used instead of live testimony to establish the amount of a claim. If you intend to rely on such written statements, you should bring them with you. Be sure that the statements are itemized, signed and submitted on the preparer's original letterhead. If your case involves a damages item, you must give the other party a chance to inspect the damage prior to trial. You must have damaged items available for inspection by the other party prior to trial.

If you need the testimony of a witness who will not attend trial voluntarily, you should ask the court, no later than 10 days before the trial date, to issue a subpoena requiring that person to attend. It is your responsibility to have the subpoena served and to pay the witness fee and service fee.

Mediation

Mediation is available at trial and is a free service, provided by Utah Dispute Resolution.  Parties coming to Small Claims Court can use mediation to resolve their disputes.  A few minutes prior to trial, the mediator will notify the court and parties that mediation is available.  Parties interested in mediation will be excused from the courtroom to mediate.  When the dispute is resolved in mediation, a formal report is submitted to the court and signed by the judge; the parties do not have to appear in court before the judge.  If the dispute is not resolved through mediation, the parties will return to the courtroom where the judge will hear the small claims case.  Mediation is confidential and will not affect the court case, if an agreement is not reached. 

Some of the advantages of small claims mediation are:  payment plans can be worked out, may save time and money, defendant(s) can avoid a judgment entered on their record and credit report, helps both parties reach a satisfactory resolution of the dispute, parties remain in control and come to an agreement, and no agreement is reached unless both parties consent to all of the terms.

Judgment

If judgment is granted, the winning party has the right to enforce the judgment. The losing party may be required to testify regarding assets and income. A lien can be placed on the losing party's property, and non-exempt wages, bank accounts, stocks and other assets can be seized and sold by the sheriff or constable. A judgment can accrue interest and the prevailing party may be entitled to recover court costs accruing after judgment. A judgment must be collected or renewed within 8 years of the date it is granted or it expires. It may be renewed by filing a new affidavit before the original judgment expires.

Setting Aside a Dismissal or Default Judgment

If the judge dismisses an affidavit or counter affidavit without prejudice, the party can file a new affidavit or counter affidavit without setting aside the dismissal. New filing fees apply. If the judge dismisses an affidavit or counter affidavit with prejudice, the case cannot be re-filed, but the non-appearing party may complete and file a motion to set aside the dismissal. If the judge enters a default judgment, the non-appearing party may complete and file a motion to set aside the judgment. The party requesting the dismissal or default judgment be set aside must file the motion within 15 days after the dismissal or default judgment, showing a good reason for not appearing at the trial. The judge may allow a motion to set aside to be filed late if the motion is filed within a reasonable time after dismissal or default judgment and the party shows a good reason for filing late. The requesting party may be ordered to pay the other party’s costs, such as the reasonable and necessary cost of preparing for trial. The clerk will set a hearing date for the Motion to Set Aside. 

If the dismissal or default judgment is set aside at the hearing, the Judge may reset the trial date for the same date of the hearing or the court clerk will reschedule the trial and notify the parties.

Acknowledgement of Satisfaction of Judgment

If and when the judgment is paid, plaintiff/petitioner must obtain and file a Small Claims Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment form with the clerk. A Small Claims Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment form must also be filed in each county in which an Abstract of Judgment was filed. There is no cost for the Small Claims Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment.

Appeal

Either party may appeal a Small Claims judgment within 30 days after the dismissal or judgment. A Notice of Appeal form and a Third District Court Notice of Mediation form must be filed with the court and the appropriate fees paid.

Disability Accommodations

If you need disability accommodations, contact a judicial service assistant at least three days before the hearing.