Arkansas District Court Small Claims Actions: An Overview

Learn about filing a small claims case in Arkansas District court.

By , Attorney

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

You can ask for up to $5,000 in a small claims action filed in the small claims division of Arkansas District Court—the courts that handle small claims matters in Arkansas.

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

No. Evictions aren't heard as small claims in Arkansas District 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 Arkansas?

Arkansas 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 Arkansas, you can file in the court:

  • in the county where any defendant resides
  • where the obligation was to be performed, or
  • where the injury occurred.

Go to the Arkansas Secretary of State 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 Arkansas?

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 Arkansas statute of limitations is three years for oral contracts, five years for written contracts, and three years for personal injury and personal property damage matters. 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 Arkansas District Court?

No. In Arkansas, attorneys aren't allowed to represent small claimants.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Yes. The defendant must file an answer within 30 days of service of the court documents to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment. The answer must include all defenses and explain why the defendant isn't liable to the plaintiff. Also, a copy must be mailed to the plaintiff.

Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.

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

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

Can I appeal an Arkansas small claims case?

Yes, you can appeal the decision if you lose a case filed against you. Under Arkansas law, you must file the appeal within 30 days of entry of the small claims judgment—the date the judgment is entered into the court records. 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 Arkansas District Court?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the Arkansas Attorney General's guide to small claims court or the Arkansas Court's small claims handbook.

You can also view Arkansas's small claims law online on the Arkansas State Legislature's webpage. (Ark. Const. amend. 80 § 7; Ark. Code Ann. § 16-17-706; Arkansas District Court Rules 1-11, except where modified by Rule 10; and Administrative Order 18.)

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.