LITIGATION OF SMALL CLAIMS
503:1 Small Claim Defined.
I. A small claim is any right of action not involving the title to real estate in which the debt or damages, exclusive of interest and costs, does not exceed $10,000.
II. Any person may file a small claims action as provided in this chapter, unless trial by jury is claimed by the plaintiff when the debt or damages exceed $1,500 or when the defendant claims trial by jury as provided in paragraph III.
III. When the debt or damages claimed exceed $1,500, a defendant may claim trial by jury by filing a written request within 5 business days of the filing of the application and statement of the claim under RSA 503:3 or within such additional time as the municipal or district court may for good cause allow. If such a request is filed, the case shall be transferred at once to the superior court in the county in which the town or district is located and heard and tried as if originally entered in the superior court. The original entry fee shall be paid by the plaintiff, but is recoverable as a cost if the plaintiff prevails. The small claims transfer fee shall be paid by the defendant, but is recoverable as a cost if the defendant prevails.
IV. When the amount of debt or damages exceeds $5,000 and no claim is made for trial by jury under paragraph III, the parties to the action shall be required to participate in a mediation program in the district courts approved by the office of mediation and arbitration established under RSA 490-E. If mediation of such action does not result in resolution of the action, the case shall be presented to the judge under oath.
Source. 1939, 179:1. RL 378:1. 1951, 161:1. RSA 503:1. 1957, 35:1. 1969, 154:1. 1971, 377:1. 1975, 404:1. 1983, 283:1. 1985, 182:1. 1988, 67:1. 1991, 47:1. 1998, 47:1. 2009, 79:1, 2, eff. Jan. 1, 2010. 2010, 242:1, eff. July 1, 2010. 2014, 186:5, eff. July 1, 2015.
503:2 Procedure Established.
There is hereby established a simple, speedy, and informal procedure which a plaintiff or his authorized attorney may pursue in an action commenced before a justice of a district or municipal court for the determination of a small claim. Such procedure shall be alternative and not exclusive.
Source. 1939, 179:2. RL 378:2.
503:2-a Representation by Attorneys.
I. Any attorney appearing in a small claims action on behalf of a party shall file an appearance with the court and shall provide copies of that appearance to all opposing parties at least 7 days prior to the hearing date.
II. The court shall give notice of the requirement to file an appearance under paragraph I to all parties in small claims actions.
III. Any party which fails to receive timely notice under paragraph II may request a continuance, which the court shall ordinarily grant.
Source. 1992, 228:1, eff. Jan. 1, 1993.
An action on a small claim may be commenced by filing an application in the district or municipal court having jurisdiction. The application may be filed by a person or his authorized attorney and shall set forth a statement of the claim, including the names of the parties involved, the residence of each party, the basis of the claim, and the amount alleged to be due. Upon the filing of such an application and the payment of the required fee, the clerk shall set a time and place for hearing.
Source. 1939, 179:3. 1941, 138:2. RL 378:3. 1945, 70:2. 1953, 98:1. RSA 503:3. 1979, 158:1. 1985, 182:2, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.
503:3-a Entry of Claims; Generally.
The statement of the claim shall be filed with the clerk of a municipal court in the town in which the defendant or the plaintiff resides. If there is no municipal court in the town in which the defendant or the plaintiff resides, the statement of the claim shall be filed with the clerk of the district court in which district the defendant or the plaintiff resides.
Source. 1965, 327:5. 1975, 222:1, eff. Aug. 2, 1975.
503:3-b Entry of Claims; Nonresident Defendant.
The statement of the claim shall be filed with the clerk of a municipal court in the town in which the defendant resides. If there is no municipal court in the town in which the defendant resides, the statement of the claim shall be filed with the clerk of the district court in which district the defendant resides. If the defendant is not a resident of this state, the claim may be filed in the court of any town or district where the defendant, in person or through an agent: transacts any business; makes a contract with the resident of the town or district; commits a tortious act; or owns, uses or possesses any real or personal property.
Source. 1975, 262:1, eff. Aug. 5, 1975.
503:3-c Repealed by 2014, 194:6, I, eff. July 1, 2015.
503:4 Disposition of Fees.
I. The clerk shall receive the entry fee for the use of the state and shall pay the postage for mailing the statement to the defendant required in RSA 503:6.
II. The sum of $5 shall be added to each entry fee collected in the district courts for small claims actions in which the amount of debt or damages is $5,000 or less and the sum of $60 shall be added to each entry fee collected in the district courts for small claims actions in which the amount of debt or damages exceeds $5,000. Such sums shall be deposited in the mediation and arbitration fund established under RSA 490-E:4.
Source. 1939, 179:4. 1941, 138:3. RL 378:4. 1945, 70:1. RSA 503:4. 1973, 309:1. 1983, 383:42. 2005, 193:2. 2007, 344:4. 2009, 79:3, eff. Jan. 1, 2010.
503:5 Repealed by 1955, 15:1, eff. Feb. 25, 1955.
503:6 Notice to Defendant.
I. The court shall cause notice of the claim and the substance thereof to be given to the defendant, whether or not the defendant is a resident of this state, by sending a written statement to the defendant by postpaid first class mail, addressed to the defendant at the defendant's last known post office address and directing the defendant to indicate, in writing within 30 days from the date said notice is mailed, the defendant's desire to be heard.
II. If the defendant fails to respond to the notice and the notice is not returned as undelivered, a default judgment will be entered in favor of the plaintiff, who shall be notified by the court.
III. If the notice is returned as undelivered, then the court shall direct the plaintiff to complete service on the defendant, at the expense of the plaintiff, as in all other actions at law.
IV. If the defendant responds to the notice indicating a desire to be heard, the case shall be scheduled for hearing shortly thereafter. Both parties shall be notified by mail of the date and time of the hearing at least 14 days in advance of the hearing.
Source. 1939, 179:6. 1941, 138:1. RL 378:6. RSA 503:6. 1975, 262:2. 1985, 182:4. 2007, 86:1. 2009, 302:8, 9, eff. Sept. 29, 2009. 2010, 242:2, eff. July 1, 2010. 2014, 194:2, 6, II, eff. July 1, 2015.
At the hearing, the technical rules of evidence shall not apply but the justice may admit any evidence he deems material and proper. Judgment shall be entered for the prevailing party and, if the plaintiff recovers, his costs and interest shall be awarded to him in addition to the judgment in his behalf. In awarding judgment, the justice may provide for payment thereof in installments. The court shall render judgment for the plaintiff when the defendant fails to appear pursuant to said notice.
Source. 1939, 179:7. RL 378:7. RSA 503:7. 1986, 30:1, eff. June 28, 1986.
503:8 Proceedings After Judgment.
All proceedings subsequent to the rendition of judgment shall follow existing practice and procedure.
Source. 1939, 179:8. RL 378:8. RSA 503:8. 1957, 26:2. 1985, 182:5, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.
503:9 Transfer to the Supreme Court.
The findings of fact by the justice hearing the claim shall be final, but questions of law may be transferred to the supreme court in the same manner as from the superior court.
Source. 1965, 327:6, eff. Sept. 6, 1965.
503:10 Records Requirement.
I. Any person who is a party to a small claim action may, at least 5 business days prior to trial, request of the district or municipal court that a sound recording be made of all proceedings in the trial. If such a request is made, the person making the request for the recording shall be responsible for the cost of the sound recording and any associated transcription costs.
II. Any party to a small claim judgment may, at the time judgment is declared or within 30 days of the notice of judgment date, appeal therefrom to the supreme court. On any such appeal, the district or municipal court shall provide the sound recording requested under paragraph I to the supreme court.
Source. 1985, 182:6, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.
503:11 Representation of Corporations and Other Business Organizations.
I. Notwithstanding RSA 311:11, and to the extent not inconsistent with court rules, an officer, employee, partner, owner or trustee, as applicable, of a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or trust who presents written authorization and who is not an attorney but is appearing for the organization, may represent the organization in an action cognizable as a small claim under this chapter before a district or municipal court for the purposes of entering a plea or answer on behalf of the organization, or otherwise representing the organization during the course of the small claim proceeding.
II. The requirement for written authorization in paragraph I shall be met by a document, signed by a duly authorized official of the organization and containing a certificate of acknowledgment to the signature, authorizing the representation, and acknowledging that the organization shall be bound by any agreement entered into by such individual or any order of the court in the matter. Any such written authorization shall be presented to the court under oath by the representative.
III. Nothing in this section shall prevent the court from denying representation by any individual it deems to be improper, inappropriate or unable to adequately represent the interests of the organization.
IV. "Duly authorized" as used in paragraph II shall mean:
(a) For a corporation, a resolution adopted by the board of directors.
(b) For a partnership, an authorization signed by a general partner.
(c) For a trust, an authorization signed by a trustee.
(d) For a limited liability company, an authorization signed by a member with management authority.
V. The authorization of the duly authorized official by the organization may apply to all matters or may be limited to specific matters at the election of the organization.
Source. 1992, 228:2. 1993, 77:1. 1994, 195:1, eff. May 24, 1994.
503:12 Post-Judgment Attachment and Execution.
I. Attachments and levies of execution on personal property and real estate may be made on judgments in small claims actions in district courts as provided in RSA 511, RSA 528, and RSA 529.
II. A judgment entered in accordance with this chapter may be secured against real estate of the defendant in accordance with RSA 524:13.
Source. 2008, 340:1, eff. Sept. 5, 2008. 2016, 80:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2017.
503:13 Pre-judgment Attachments.
RSA 511-A shall not apply to the litigation of small claims under this chapter.
Source. 2014, 194:3, eff. July 1, 2015.