Chapter 482 Small Claims Courts

482.315 - Procedure if amount of claim exceeds jurisdictional amount — amendment of claim in transferred action not to exceed jurisdictional amount of court to which transferred.

Steven Groce, Attorney Advertisement

1.If the amount in controversy in an action exceeds five thousand dollars, a plaintiff may file and prosecute a small claims action for recovery of money, but such plaintiff waives any claim for any sum in excess of five thousand dollars in that or in any subsequent proceeding involving the same parties and issues.

2.In an action transferred under section 482.325, the plaintiff or defendant may amend the claim or counterclaim to a dollar amount not to exceed the jurisdictional limit of the division of the circuit court to which the action was transferred.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 5 subdiv. (1), A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634, A.L. 1982 S.B. 497, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al., A.L. 1993 H.B. 490, A.L. 1995 H.B. 189, A.L. 2011 S.B. 59)

482.340 - Form of petition and summons — instructions for defendant — waiver of trial by jury — availability of forms.

1.An action on a small claim may be commenced by filing with the clerk of the small claims court a form substantially similar to the petition form provided in this section.Petition forms shall be provided by the clerk of the small claims court free of charge to any person:

SMALL CLAIMS COURT
In the Circuit Court of ______, Missouri ______
Plaintiff)Case number ______
vsAmount claimed ______
______ Defendant)Return date ______
PETITION
The plaintiff states that he has a claim against the defendant in the amount of $______. The claim arose on or about ______, 20______, as a result of the following events: Defendant can be found at ______, Telephone No. ______. Plaintiff can be found at ______, Telephone No. ______.
The plaintiff states that the allegations of this complaint are true and correct to the best of his knowledge, that he is not an assignee of this claim and that he has not filed more than three other claims in the Missouri small claims courts during the current calendar year. Plaintiff understands that should he be successful in this action and obtain a judgment, and if defendant does not appeal and this judgment becomes final, the plaintiff is barred from commencing another action involving the same parties and issues. PLAINTIFF UNDERSTANDS THAT HE IS HEREBY WAIVING HIS RIGHT TO JURY TRIAL ON THESE ISSUES IN THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT.
__________________
(Plaintiff)

2.The summons in a small claims action shall be made in a form substantially similar to the form below:

SUMMONS
TO EACH OF THE ABOVE NAMED DEFENDANTS:
YOU ARE SUMMONED AND REQUIRED TO APPEAR IN PERSON IN ROOM ______ OF THE ______ BUILDING LOCATED AT ______ ON ______, 20______, AT THE HOUR OF ______.
IF YOU FAIL TO APPEAR, A JUDGMENT MAY BE ENTERED AGAINST YOU FOR THE AMOUNT ASKED IN THE PETITION, BUT NOT TO EXCEED $1,000 PLUS INTEREST AND COSTS. THIS ACTION HAS BEEN FILED UNDER THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT ACT. RULES OF EVIDENCE DO NOT APPLY AND YOU MAY DEFEND THIS ACTION WITH OR WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF AN ATTORNEY.
__________________
(Clerk of the Court)

3.A copy of the petition shall be attached to the summons. Instructions to the defendant in substantially the following form shall accompany the summons.

INSTRUCTIONS TO DEFENDANT
1.If you do not wish to oppose plaintiff's claim you may:
(1)Contact plaintiff and make an out-of-court settlement with the plaintiff before the hearing date and file with the clerk of the court a dismissal of the case signed by the plaintiff, or
(2)Make no appearance at the hearing. In that case the plaintiff may be given a default judgment against you.
2.If you wish to oppose the claim:
(1)You must appear on the date and at the time set for hearing.
(2)You should bring with you all books, papers, witnesses, and evidence you have to establish your defense.
(3)At your request the clerk will issue a subpoena for any witness you may need (you must order the subpoena as soon as possible and before the hearing date).
3.If you have a claim against the plaintiff, it is a counterclaim. If you desire to file a counterclaim, then:
(1)You must file your counterclaim with the court within ten days after you receive this summons.
(2)To do this you must personally appear before the clerk of the court.
(3)The clerk will assist you in preparing the counterclaim.
4.If you are a member of the armed services of the United States, please advise the court immediately upon receipt of this summons.
5.Rules of evidence do not apply and you may defend this action with or without the assistance of an attorney.
6.A pamphlet explaining the small claims court is enclosed.

4.Copies of all forms and procedures applicable to small claims shall be available to any person from the clerk of the small claims court without charge.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 8, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634, A.L. 1982 S.B. 497, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al.)

482.350 - Personal service not required — exceptions — procedure for service — proof of service, what constitutes — record of service.

Personal service is not required for the service of any summons issuing out of a small claims court, unless specifically requested by the plaintiff.The service may be made by mailing a copy of the summons and the complaint to the defendant at his last known address by certified mail, return receipt requested, delivery restricted to the addressee.The envelope and the return receipt shall be stamped with the docket number of the case.The receipt for certified mail shall state the name and address of the addressee and the date of mailing and shall be attached to the original summons.The return receipt, when signed by the addressee and when returned to the clerk, shall be attached to the original summons, and, if it shows delivery at least ten days before the day for appearance, shall constitute proof of service.The clerk shall note the fact of service in a permanent record.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 10, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al.)

482.305 - Jurisdiction of small claims court.

When sitting as a small claims court, the judge shall have original jurisdiction of all civil cases, whether tort or contract, where the amount in controversy does not exceed five thousand dollars, exclusive of interest or costs, or as provided in this chapter.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 2, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634, A.L. 1982 S.B. 497, A.L. 1988 S.B. 522, A.L. 1993 H.B. 490, A.L. 1995 H.B. 189, A.L. 2011 S.B. 59)

482.325 - Counterclaims exceeding jurisdictional limit, procedure — consent of all parties required — transfer of counterclaim, when — dismissal, when.

If the amount of the counterclaim exceeds by itself the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court as established in section 482.305:

(1)The court shall have jurisdiction to hear both the claim and the counterclaim, with the consent of all parties to the proceeding.The court shall not accept the consent of any party unless the court shall have informed him that he has the right to consult with an attorney prior to giving or withholding his consent.

(2)If all parties do not consent and if the counterclaim arose out of the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's original claim, the cause shall be transferred by the small claims court to be heard by the associate circuit judge under procedures provided in chapter 517, if such might otherwise be heard and determined under such procedures, and in other cases the cause shall be certified for assignment in the manner provided in section 517.081.

(3)If all parties do not consent and the counterclaim does not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the original claim, the court shall dismiss the counterclaim without prejudice to its being heard separately in an appropriate court.

(4)If all parties do not consent and if the counterclaim arose out of the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's original claim, and the court determines in its judgment that the amount or nature of the counterclaim is not in good faith, then the court shall dismiss the counterclaim without prejudice.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 5 subdiv. (5), A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al.)

Effective 1-01-87

482.335 - Duties of clerk of small claims courts — notices to be posted — plaintiff to advise clerk of time hearing preferred — clerk not practicing law.

1.Clerks under the supervision of the small claims court judges shall explain to litigants the procedures and functions of the small claims court and shall assist them in filling out all forms and pleadings necessary for the presentation of their claim or counterclaim to the court.Notice of the fact that clerks will provide such assistance shall be conspicuously posted in the clerks' offices.

2.The location of the office where a small claims action can be filed and the location of the courtroom where small claims sessions are being held shall be conspicuously posted in the court building.

3.At the time of filing of a small claim, the plaintiff shall advise the clerk whether a daytime, evening or Saturday hearing is preferred by the plaintiff.

4.The performance of duties prescribed in this section shall not constitute the practice of law as defined in section 484.010. All duties of the clerk prescribed in this section shall be performed without cost to the litigants.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 7, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634)

Effective 1-02-79

482.360 - Barring person from small claims court, grounds, length of bar.

If the court finds that the small claims proceedings are being used by a plaintiff or defendant for the purpose of oppression or harassment, it may issue an order denying the plaintiff or defendant use of small claims proceedings for up to one year.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 12)

482.330 - Restrictions on filing of claims — statement required of plaintiff — counterclaim not prohibited — suit may be brought, where.

1.No claim may be filed or prosecuted in small claims court by a party who:

(1)Is an assignee of the claim; or

(2)Has filed more than twelve other claims in the Missouri small claims courts during the current calendar year.If the court finds that a party has filed more claims than are permitted by this section, the court shall dismiss the claim without prejudice.

2.At the time of filing an action in small claims court, a plaintiff shall sign a statement that he or she is not the assignee of the claim sued on and that he or she has not filed more than twelve other claims in the Missouri small claims courts during the current calendar year.

3.Nothing in this section shall prohibit the filing or prosecution of a counterclaim growing out of the same transaction or occurrence.

4.No claim may be filed in a small claims court unless:

(1)At least one defendant is a resident of the county in which the court is located or at least one of the plaintiffs is a resident of the county in which the court is located and at least one defendant may be found in said county; or

(2)The facts giving rise to the cause of action took place within the county in which the court is located.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 6, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al., A.L. 1988 S.B. 522, A.L. 1993 H.B. 490, A.L. 1996 H.B. 1554, A.L. 2001 S.B. 267, A.L. 2004 S.B. 1211)

482.365 - Small claim judgment not lien on real estate — trial de novo, how perfected — duty of clerk — recognizance required, when — procedure.

1.No judgment of a small claims court shall be a lien on real estate.

2.Any party aggrieved by any final judgment rendered by a small claims court in a small claims proceeding, except a judgment by consent, may have a trial de novo.The right to trial de novo shall be perfected by filing an application for trial de novo with the clerk of the small claims court within ten days after the judgment is rendered.A copy of same shall be mailed by the clerk to the opposing party or his attorney of record or served upon him as provided by law for the service of notices within fifteen days after the judgment was rendered, but no application for a trial de novo shall stay execution unless and until the applicant, or some person for him, together with one or more solvent sureties to be approved by the small claims court judge, within the time prescribed for filing the application for trial de novo, enter into a recognizance before the small claims court judge, to the adverse party, in a sum sufficient to secure the payment of such judgment and costs, conditioned that the applicant will prosecute his application for trial de novo with due diligence to a decision, and that if on such trial de novo judgment is given against him, he will pay such judgment, and that, if his application for trial de novo is dismissed, he will pay the judgment rendered by the small claims court judge, together with the costs.The trial de novo shall be governed by the practice in trials before circuit judges, except that by agreement of the parties the case may be tried by a jury of not less than six persons.On an application for a trial de novo from a judgment of a small claims court, if the defendant is the applicant, the plaintiff shall not be required to give security for costs.Costs shall be assessed as in other cases heard in circuit court.Notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary, if the defendant applies for a trial de novo pursuant to this section, the plaintiff shall be allowed to amend the petition to state a claim which is within the jurisdictional limit of the circuit court.

3.The division or deputy clerks serving a small claims court judge shall assist judgment creditors in actions authorized in sections 482.300 to 482.365 in the preparation of forms, available from the clerk, necessary to obtain satisfaction of a final judgment where no application for trial de novo is pending.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 13, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al., A.L. 1993 S.B. 88)

(2013) Filing an application for trial de novo in small claims court constitutes the practice of law, requiring an attorney.Palmore v. City of Pacific, 393 S.W.3d 657 (Mo.App.S.D.).

482.320 - Counterclaims, filing, different transaction, same transaction, arising at hearing, duty of judge.

1.At any time up to ten days after service of process and before the date of the hearing, the defendant may file a counterclaim which does not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's original claim.The pleading requirements for filing such a counterclaim shall be the same as those for the filing of the original claim.

2.At any time up to and including the time of the hearing, the defendant may raise a counterclaim which grows out of the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's original claim.

3.If, during the course of the hearing, the judge determines that the defendant has a counterclaim arising out of the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's original claim, the judge may question the parties on the counterclaim and render judgment on it as if it had been raised on the initiative of the defendant.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 5 subdivs. (2), (3), (4), A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634)

Effective 1-02-79

482.355 - Appearance for trial — continuance, when granted — failure of defendant to appear, consequences — procedure — dismissal of action, when.

1.The defendant in a small claims action shall appear at the time and place specified in the summons and the case shall be tried on the day set for appearance unless continued by the court upon request of either party.No party shall be entitled to a continuance, except on a showing of good cause and at the discretion of the small claims court judge.If the defendant appears, he need not file an answer, and, when no answer is filed the allegations of the complaint shall be considered denied and any defense may be proved as if it were specifically pleaded.

2.If, upon the date set for the hearing of a small claims action, the defendant, having been duly served, fails to appear at the time and place specified in the summons or specified by the court in response to a request for a continuance, the court, after presentation of evidence by the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case, may enter judgment for the amount claimed.If the plaintiff does not appear, or if neither the plaintiff nor defendant appears, the court may enter an order dismissing the action.Any action so dismissed may not be brought in small claims court again, but may be brought in an appropriate division of the circuit court using regular proceedings.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 11, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634, A.L. 1985 S.B. 5, et al.)

482.300 - Judges to maintain separate docket for small claims — court to be known as small claims court — assignment of cases.

1.Each judge of the circuit court hearing and determining small claims cases shall maintain a separate "small claims" docket and shall set aside and specify such times as may be reasonable and necessary for hearing "small claims" including, if necessary and desirable, Saturdays and evenings.

2.When such judge is hearing small claims matters, the court shall be known as "small claims court".

3.Unless and until a case or cases filed under the small claims procedures herein provided are otherwise assigned by the presiding judge of the circuit or by local circuit court rule,

(1)In counties where there is only one resident associate circuit judge, such cases shall be filed with the clerk serving such judge and thereafter heard by him;

(2)In counties where there is more than one resident associate circuit judge, such cases shall be heard by such associate circuit judge or judges as may be provided by local circuit court rule, or in the absence of such rule, as may be appointed by the presiding judge of the circuit, and such cases shall be filed with the clerks serving such associate judges as are so designated, unless a centralized filing system for such cases be provided by local court rule.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsecs. 1, 4, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634)

Effective 1-02-79

482.310 - Procedure in small claims court.

In all small claims proceedings:

(1)Parties may prosecute their claims and defenses without the assistance of an attorney.Corporations or unincorporated associations, including labor unions, may enter their appearance and be represented by an officer or authorized employee.Such representation shall not be deemed the unauthorized practice of law.

(2)Except as otherwise provided herein or by rule of the supreme court, the established structure, administration and procedures in the divisions of the circuit court presided over by associate circuit judges in the respective counties in matters heard and determined within the class of cases enumerated in subdivision (1) of subsection (2) of section 478.225 shall prevail.

(3)Proceedings shall be conducted in an informal summary manner, and the formal rules of evidence and procedure shall not apply.

(4)The judge shall assume an affirmative duty to determine the merits of the claims and defenses of plaintiffs and defendants and may question parties and witnesses.

(5)No discovery shall be permitted.

(6)Trial shall be to the judge sitting without jury.

(7)The provisions of sections 482.300 to 482.365 shall be liberally construed and applied to effectuate the purposes of the act.Judges sitting as a small claims court shall have the power and duty to construe and apply sections 482.300 to 482.365 to further its purposes.

(L. 1976 H.B. 1317 & 1098 § 4 subsec. 3, A.L. 1978 H.B. 1634)

Effective 1-02-79

482.345 - Court costs — procedure for assessment of costs, award of fees and disbursement of fees.

1.A person filing an action in small claims court shall pay court costs and a deposit as security for costs in amounts determined pursuant to sections 488.010 to 488.020*.

2.A person filing an action in small claims court shall pay the cost of service and other process in advance.

3.The court may in its discretion award the fees and assess the costs provided in this section.

4.All court costs shall be disbursed in accordance with sections 488.010 to 488.020*.