Oregon Circuit and Justice Courts, Small Claims Divisions: An Overview

Learn about filing a small claims case in the small claims division of Oregon's Circuit or Justice Courts.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims dollar limit in Oregon Circuit and Justice Courts?

You can ask for up to $10,000 in the small claims division of Oregon Circuit and Justice Courts—the courts that handle small claims matters in Oregon.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in an Oregon small claims court?

You won't be able to have an eviction matter heard in the small claims department. However, it's 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 Oregon?

Oregon has many circuit and justice courts and 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 Oregon, you can file in the county where one of the following occurs:

  • the defendant resides or can be found
  • the injury or damage occurred, or
  • the contract or obligation was to be performed.

Go to the Secretary of State's "Find a Business" 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 Oregon?

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 Oregon statute of limitations is six years for contract and property damage cases, and two years for personal injury matters. Other limitations periods exist, depending on the type of action. 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 Oregon Circuit and Justice Courts?

Generally, no. Individuals can't have a lawyer present the claim before the judge without permission from the judge.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Written responses are allowed but not required. However, a defendant must file a counterclaim within ten days of receiving notice of the small claims action. You should check with your court to determine if there is anything you must do 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 Oregon?

Jury trials aren't allowed, so a judge will hear your small claims hearing. A defendant who would like a jury trial can ask the court to transfer the case to an appropriate court if the plaintiff's claim is $750 or more.

Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal an Oregon Circuit or Justice Court small claims case?

Circuit court cases aren't appealable. However, in the justice court, a defendant can appeal a plaintiff's case, and a plaintiff can appeal a defendant's counterclaim.

You'll have to have your appeal on file within ten days of the entry of judgment. In many small claims courts, the clerk sends a notification of the entry judgment by mail, but the procedure used by your court could be different. You must comply with this and other rules, so be sure to do your research and count the dates accurately, or talk with 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 court in Oregon?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the Oregon Judicial Branch Small Claims Form Center or the Oregon State Bar small claims webpage. You can also view Oregon law online on the Oregon State Legislature webpage. (Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 46.405 to 46.570; 55.011 to 55.140.)

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.