You can ask for up to $15,000 in a small claims action in Minnesota Conciliation Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Minnesota. The amount for claims involving consumer credit transactions is limited to $4,000, however.
Evictions are not heard in Minnesota Conciliation Court; however, other disputes between landlords and tenants are allowed. It's also an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, too, such as property damage cases and breach of contract disputes.
Minnesota has many Conciliation Courts. 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 Minnesota, you can file in the county where:
You might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.
You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, you'll have six years for property damage and contract cases, and two years for injury cases. If you don't file within this period, you lose your right to sue.
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.
No. Lawyers cannot appear on behalf of small claims plaintiffs or claimants.
No. In Minnesota, the defendant doesn't have to file an answer before the hearing. The defendant can avoid an automatic default judgment by appearing at the hearing, and can put forth a defense then. Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.
A judge will hear your case at the Conciliation hearing. Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.
Yes. Either side can appeal the Conciliation judgment by filing the appropriate paperwork with the court administrator within twenty days of the mailing of the judgment. You must file the appeal within the proper time. Keep in mind that you'll have less than twenty days since time is calculated from the mailing date, not the date you receive the judgment.
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.
Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try Minnesota Judicial Branch's Conciliation Court or the Minnesota Attorney General's Guide to Small Claims. You can also view Minnesota law online on the Minnesota Legislature website (Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 491A.01 to 491A.03; General Practice Rules, Rules 501 to 525).
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.
Updated February 5, 2020