WFJ Presents: Minnesota Conciliation Court

Conciliation court is also known as small claims court. This court is reserved for claims of $10,000.00 or less for money or property, $4,000.00 for consumer credit transactions, or $15,000.00 for money or personal property subject to forfeiture. You may adjust your claim amount to meet the requirements; however, you cannot later file a claim for the additional amount if the claim involves the same events.

Generally, you do not need a lawyer for conciliation court, but it may be helpful to discuss your case with a lawyer to obtain advice about the specific laws that may apply.

If you have decided to pursue a claim, you must first determine where the claim must be filed. A conciliation claim is typically filed in the county where the person against whom you are making a claim (defendant) resides. If the claim involves a dishonored check or return of a security deposit, then the claim will need to be filed in the county where the check was issued or the where the rental property is located.

The forms necessary to start a claim are available online or at the office of the clerk of courts. Fees for filing a claim are generally $55-$75 and will be paid to the county when filing the necessary forms with the clerk of courts.

After the forms have been filed and the filing fees have been paid, the court administrator will mail a notice of the hearing date. If the claim exceeds $2,500.00 the plaintiff is required to serve the summons to the defendant by certified mail. This service must be proven by filing an affidavit of service with the court. It is possible that the claim may be settled before the court date. If this happens, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to inform the court administrator in writing.

To defend a claim in conciliation court, it is extremely important that you appear on the court date. If you fail to appear at the hearing, the court will likely order judgment against you. Another court date may be requested. A request must be made in writing and at least 5 business days before the court date.

Unfortunately, a successful claim does not guarantee payment on the judgment. The court does not collect payment for you and you may need to take further action to obtain your payment. This process can be more difficult and will likely include additional expenses.

Common Claims:

– Unpaid debts
– Unpaid wages
– Back rent
– Return of security deposits
– Damage to property
– Losses due to bad checks

Claims That Cannot Be Heard:

– Title to real estate
– Libel
– Slander
– Class actions
– Medical malpractice
– Actions against deceased people

Tips for Conciliation Court:

– Understand the process of conciliation court before filing your claim
– Be prepared for the hearing by compiling a list of facts you want to present
– Make sure your side of the story is clear and well organized
– Contact individuals who have knowledge of the events involved in the claim and ask them to be present at the hearing
– Bring all evidence (contracts, letters, bills, photographs, etc.)

Attorney Samantha Hargrave and Attorney Lauren T. Skildum