Alaska Small Claims Actions in District or Magistrate Court: An Overview

Learn about filing a small claims case in Alaska District or Magistrate Court.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims court dollar limit in Alaska Small Claims Court?

You can ask for up to $10,000 in a small claims action filed in the small claims division of Alaska District or Magistrate Court—the courts that handle small claims matters in Alaska.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in the small claims division of Alaska District or Magistrate Court?

No. Evictions aren't heard as small claims in Alaska District or Magistrate Court. However, the small claims division is an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, such as property damage matters and breach of contract disputes.

Where should I file my small claims case in Alaska?

Alaska has many courthouses. You must choose the proper court location or "venue," otherwise, the defendant—the person or company you sue—will be able to ask the court to transfer or dismiss your action. In Alaska, you can file in the court:

  • nearest to the defendant's residence or place of employment
  • in the district in which the injury or property damage occurred
  • in the district where the defendant does business, or
  • in a place that will not cause unnecessary expense or inconvenience for the defendant.

Go to the Alaska Secretary of State corporate and business entity search webpage for company information. Also, be aware that you might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.

What's the deadline to file a case in small claims court in Alaska?

You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a claim. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, the Alaska statute of limitations is three years for contracts and two years for personal injury and personal property damage cases. If you don't file within the proper period, you lose your right to sue.

Also, the statute of limitations can stop and restart depending on various circumstances, and figuring out when it expires can be challenging. For instance, if a minor is injured, the personal injury statute won't begin running until the child reaches 18 years of age. Learn more about calculating the statute of limitations.

Can an attorney represent a small claims claimant in Alaska District or Magistrate Court?

Yes. In Alaska, attorneys can represent claimants. Counsel must represent collection agencies.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Yes. The defendant must file an answer within 20 days of service of the court documents (40 days if outside the U.S.) to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment. Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.

Will I have a judge or jury trial in small claims court in Alaska?

A judge will hear your case. Alaska doesn't allow jury trials in small claims cases. Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal an Alaska small claims case?

Yes, you can appeal the decision if you lose a case filed against you. Under Alaska law, you must file the appeal within 30 days from the date shown in the clerk's certificate of distribution of judgment. You must comply with this and other rules or you'll lose your appeal rights. So if you're confused about the process or how to find the date you'll use to calculate the filing deadline, talk with the court clerk or a local attorney.

Will the court collect my judgment for me?

No. You'll be responsible for all collection efforts. It's a good idea to determine whether you can collect before deciding whether to sue.

Where can I learn more about small claims cases in Alaska District or Magistrate Court?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the Alaska Court System's forms webpage (you can review the small claims forms) or the Alaska Court's small claims handbook.

You can also view Alaska statutory law online on the Alaska State Legislature's webpage to view the statutory codes. (Alaska Stat. §§ 22.15.040 and 22.15.050.) You'll find the court rules on the Alaska Court System Court Rules webpage. (Alaska Court Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 8 to 22, 204, and 217.)

For detailed help with case filing, court strategy, and collecting a money judgment, see Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court by Attorney Cara O'Neill (Nolo).

Look out for Legal Changes. This overview doesn't provide all of the information needed to file a small claims case. Also, keep in mind that statutes can change, and checking them is always a good idea. How the courts interpret and apply the law can also change. These are just some of the reasons to consult an attorney if you have any questions about litigating your case or if you aren't comfortable independently verifying the law.