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Small Claim Court

New Mexico Small Claims Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that hear cases involving parties (individuals, businesses, or corporations) with financial disparities of not more than $10,000. In New Mexico, the Small Claims Courts are not self-sustained; rather, these courts function as divisions under the 54 Magistrate Courts domiciled in different localities. A Small Claims Court the legal authority over the following cases:

  • The repayment of the loan, not more than $10,000.
  • Claims concerning professional negligence (for example, fixing an appliance poorly).
  • Professional malpractice.
  • False arrest claims.
  • Defamation claims (libel and slander)
  • Disagreements with contractors
  • Breach of warranty.
  • Product Liability.
  • Breach of contract.
  • Personal injury claims (for instance, workplace accidents and dog bites).
  • Property damage claims.
  • Unlawful eviction claims.
  • Claims pertaining to the return of a landlord’s security deposit or personal property.
  • Collection of debts.
  • Nuisance.

How Does New Mexico Small Claims Court Work?

New Mexico Small Claims Court settles disputes swiftly and at pocket-friendly rates. A judge heads the Small Claims Courts in the state, and these courts do not adopt the level of formality at play in other courts. Due to the simple processes in the court, petitioners do not need the services of lawyers and may also collate paperwork, attend the hearing and finalize the case in person. Regardless, litigants are allowed to seek legal representations of their own will.

In a small claims lawsuit, the plaintiff is the party suing, while the defendant is the recipient of a suit. Only persons above the age of 18 who feel wronged and seek financial compensation may file small claims cases in New Mexico. When filing, the amount in claims should not exceed $10,000. Most Small Claims Courts in New Mexico allow business entities, corporations, or partnerships to settle disagreements. Still, it is advisable to check with the Clerks of the Courts for the procedures.

A natural person filing a small claim may be referred to as a private individual and not a business entity. Notwithstanding, this may change because a sole proprietor may be a natural person as well. A suitor may only file small claims actions at least twice in a calendar year. If there is a need to file more small claims actions, the litigants should be sure to structure the claim amount around $5,000 not to exceed the state’s limits. The verdict of the Small Claims Court applies to both parties in the suit. If the plaintiff wins, the party may move to collect the claim from the defendant. The accused party must also oblige the court order.

However, the losing party in the case has 30 days to file an appeal in the District Court in the Magistrate Court’s locality. If the entity does not file a Notice of Appeal within this timeframe, the winner of the case may proceed to receive a discharge. Whereas, if the losing entity files the appeal, a new trial begins. Again, both plaintiff and defendant must present evidence, call in witnesses, and start the case from the inception. At the District Court, either party in the case may ask for a jury trial and must pay the jury fees.

Lastly, after the appeal, the appellant may request a stay of the proceeding and submit to the Magistrate Court to enforce the judgment. If the District Court dismisses the case, the decision of the Magistrate Court remains valid.

How to Take Someone To Small Claims Court in New Mexico

In New Mexico, a petitioner may sue someone by filing a case with the Small Claims Court in the county where the party to be sued resides. The process requires that the plaintiffs obtain the appropriate forms in the Court’s Clerk Office, fill, and submit them. In the document, the complainant must provide credible information on the reason for filing. In some scenarios, a small claims suit may involve more than one defendant. Should this happen, the plaintiff must correctly fill out the defendants’ names, their initials, and aliases (if available).

For example, if an architect fails to apply finishing touches to a structure and payments have been made for that service, the plaintiff may sue both architect and the contractor. In addition, the petitioner must also provide the correct and current address of the defendant because the accused entity must receive a notice of the suit. The next step is to pay the filing fees. The Clerk of Court must set and collect the filing fees. These fees are different in each county since the state’s law recognizes no uniform amount.

Prior to filling out court forms, it is advisable to make inquiries for information concerning court costs. Nevertheless, claimants who do not have enough money or cannot afford the filing fees may apply to ask the judge to give more time for payment. Upon completing the filing process, the plaintiff must issue a “service of process”- a procedure that involves sending a copy of the plaintiff’s claim to the defendant as a notice of the legal action and as a summons to the court. A service of process is possible by mail, in person, by a private process server, or through the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the defendant stays.

As soon as the defendant receives a copy of the petition, the Court Clerk communicates a date for trial. The judge presides over the case at the court trial, and the Clerk of Court dockets the judgment. Once the judge enters a decision, the clerk sends a Notice of Entry of Judgment to the parties involved in the case containing the verdict of the Small Claims Court.

How Much Can You Sue For in New Mexico Small Claims Court?

The maximum amount for which anyone may sue in New Mexico Small Claims Court is $10,000. However, unlike a regular court, the Small Claims Court provides a way for people to recover money in cases too small for regular litigation. As a result, it is an ideal forum for straightforward disputes, such as personal injury, security dispute, property damage, or auto repair. In contrast, the Small Claims Court does not handle divorce, guardianship, name change, bankruptcy, and injunction, because the court is specifically designed to retrieve the money.

How to Defend Yourself in New Mexico Small Claims Court

When a defendant receives a notification of a small claims action, the entity has 30 days to file and respond to the lawsuit. However, if the accused party refuses to file a response to the allegation or file a counterclaim, the judge decides the petitioner’s case by default.

Furthermore, for a defendant to prevail at the hearing, the party must appear at the courthouse with proof or documents to prove the case or defend against the claims. The accused may present the following documents as evidence; original copies of contracts, letterheads, rental agreements, canceled checks, deeds, repair bills, IOUs, diagrams, written damage estimates, photos of injuries, and sketches. Two photocopies should accompany every original document because the defendant and court need to have a copy of each.

Defendants may also call witnesses to testify in the case. The accused party may speak to the Court Clerk to order a subpoena for the witness if the individual refuses to testify. Also, some judges allow notarized statements from witnesses who cannot appear in court.

How Long Do You Have to Take Someone to Small Claims Court in New Mexico?

New Mexico residents have a limited period to file lawsuits in a Small Claims Court based on the case type. Therefore, a plaintiff may lose the right to sue once the limitation period has passed. However, depending on the circumstances, the limitation period may be suspended temporarily if the plaintiff is a minor or serving a jail term. Claimants whose cases require filing administrative claims before filing lawsuits for small claims, such as discrimination cases, may have to exhaust the administrative remedies and be sure to file the small claims cases within the prescribed period. The statute of limitation in New Mexico Small Claims Court that;

  • A personal injury case must be filed within three-year of incidence
  • Property damage cases should be filed within four years of damage.
  • The period for filing an oral and written contract case is four and six years, respectively.

For actions against the government, the filing period may differ. A claimant may only file a civil suit if only the party files an administrative action and obtains permission to sue. Failure to take these steps within the stipulated time limit may result in the loss of the lawsuit.

What Happens if You Don’t Show up for Small Claims Court in New Mexico?

A defendant who does not appear for a Small Claims Court trial may lose the case automatically. According to Chapter 38 of the New Mexico Civil Procedure, before a trial holds, the defendant must receive a service of process which serves to notify the party of the legal action. Therefore, if the defending party fails to make an appearance for the trial, the litigation begins as proposed. The judge passes a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and the court may not grant a new trial.

However, the accused person may file a “Motion To Set Aside Default Judgment”- a petition that pleads the court to revoke the pronounced judgment made in the defendant’s absence. The judge in the Small Claims Court is in the best position to honor the motion or disregard it. Although, this decision depends on the reasons for missing the court action. As per the New Mexico Magistrate Court Rules, the grounds to vacate a verdict include fraudulent lawsuits and clerical mistakes. Notably, a defendant must file the motion within 30 days after the judgment, and affidavit service should follow suit no later than 15 days after filing.

To set aside a default judgment, an interested person must visit the Small Claims Court to file the motion and pay the court cost for the action. Afterward, the Court Clerk gives feedback on the details for hearing the motion. The judge thoroughly examines the reasons for missing the trial and filing the petition at the hearing. The judge also confirms if it tallies with the existing grounds to vacate a judgment and then decide to withdraw the default judgment or sustain it. If the judge finds the reasons credible, a new trial occurs right away, or the court may schedule a later date. However, if the motion is disregarded, an accused has the option of contesting the judgment by filing a Notice Of Appeal in the Small Claims Court. A District Court sits and hears the appeal and may uphold the Magistrate Court's decision or dismiss it.

What are Small Claims Court Records in New Mexico?

A New Mexico Small Claims Court record consists of information gathered during a small claims case. Following the Inspection Of Public Records Act, the general public has the right to review and copy court records, including files of small claims cases. Often, credit reporting agencies collect these records and place them on the report of the losing parties. Nevertheless, according to the New Mexico Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit reporting agencies may only include valid information on a report and keep it private. Only upon request and with the permission of the losing party will the credit reporting agencies reveal the files.

Where Can I Find New Mexico Small Claims Court Records?

Interested parties may access Small Claims Court Records at the Clerks Offices in the Magistrate Courts. The Clerks of Court regularly maintain the files of small claims cases. Therefore, interested individuals may visit the Magistrate Courts in person or request a case file by mail. Otherwise, requestors may use the New Mexico Court Case Lookup to obtain small claims case documents online. Alternatively, New Mexico court records can be accessed through online sources including credible third-party aggregate sites, where requesters can search for records by state, city, county, and the parties’ names associated with the suit for a small fee.

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