What happens after Defendant is Served?
State of Nevada, Small Claims Court
First, if you utilize smallclaimsdepartment.com to process your case, you will receive an email from our office shortly after the Defendant has been served. If for some reason you don’t get the email, check your online account for the details.
Clark County New Procedures
Small Claims Answer (as of September 1, 2011)
In all Small Claims cases filed on or after September 1, 2011, all Defendants are required to electronically file (E-File) their Answer with the Justice Court Clerk's Office and a mail a copy by United States Mail, with first-class postage, to the Plaintiff(s) within 20 calendar days of service of the Complaint. Your failure to answer (respond to) the Complaint within 20 calendar days may result in the Plaintiff filing a Motion for Default Judgment against you. This means the Judge may grant a Judgment for the Plaintiff based on the claims/allegations in the Complaint without considering your possible defense(s) or explanation(s).
Parties in all Small Claims cases filed on or after September 1, 2011, are required to attend mediation. Mediation is an informal dispute settlement process in which a neutral third person called a mediator helps the parties communicate about the issues and options for resolving differences in order to reach an agreement on all or part of the issues in dispute. The parties keep the right to make decisions about their case; the mediator guides the process but does not decide the case. The mediator assists the parties in identifying issues, encouraging joint problem-solving, and exploring settlement alternatives. Please plan on spending 2-3 hours in mediation, although some matters can be mediated in less time. Only decision-makers may participate in mediation. You may bring evidence to share with the other party, but witnesses are not typically invited into the mediation room.
If a settlement has been agreed on by all parties, the mediator will complete the Court Mediation Agreement form and have all parties sign the form. The original Agreement will become part of the case file. The Neighborhood Justice Center will give each party a copy and keep a copy.
Cases that were not successfully resolved by mediation will have a Small Claims hearing date set by the Court 10 to 21 days later. Parties will be notified of their Small Claims hearing date by letter.
Small Claims Hearings
When a Small Claims Complaint is filed, the Court will assign a case number and a mediation hearing date. This date will be approximately 38 to 90 days from the date on which the Small Claims was filed. This will allow sufficient time for the Plaintiff to serve the Complaint on the Defendant and to return the Proof of Service to the Court.
On your Small Claims hearing date, you will go to a courtroom with many people who have also been scheduled for that day. First, the clerk will call the roll from the docket to see who is in attendance. Once this is done, a default judgment will be entered in cases where the Plaintiff appeared and the Defendant did not appear. If only the Defendant appears, but the Plaintiff did not appear, the case will be dismissed. It is very important to not be late, because if you arrive after the roll call, your case may already have been handled by either a default judgment or a dismissal.
IMPORTANT NOTE: At the beginning of each Court session, in the mornings and afternoons, there may be a lengthy line of people waiting to enter the courthouse through security. Be certain to arrive early so that you do not miss your case being called.
Next, the courtroom clerk will call your case and both parties will be assigned to a mediator. Your matter will be mediated at that time, or if there are a number of people waiting, it will be heard as soon as possible. The mediation will take place in a conference room within the Regional Justice Center. Cases that did not fully settle during mediation will be scheduled for a Small Claims hearing before a referee, 10 to 21 days later. Parties will be notified of their Small Claims hearing date by letter.
If your case goes to hearing before a referee, you and the other party in your case will move to the front of the courtroom. When your case number and names are called, you can present your arguments and tell your stories to the referee. Small Claims cases usually take no more than 10 or 15 minutes. It is very important, therefore, that you plan ahead regarding what you will say. Your story should be well organized and to the point. Do not go off on tangents, include too many details, or be repetitious. Stay calm and polite.
If you are the Plaintiff, you will speak first. As the Plaintiff, it is your burden to prove your case. You should not assume that the Defendant will admit fault or liability, so you must inform the referee of enough facts to convince him or her that you should win. Your opening statement should summarize the nature of your claim and the damages you have suffered as a result of injury, breach of contract, violation of a right, etc.; why the other person is at fault through intentional or negligent behavior; and why you did not contribute substantially to the loss.
If you are the Defendant, you will speak after the Plaintiff. As the Defendant, you may make an opening statement after the Plaintiff is done, or you may make your opening statement after the Plaintiff has presented their entire case and before you offer any evidence, including your own testimony. The Plaintiff has the burden of proving their case. You may decide whether or not to testify or present any witnesses. You may wish to tell the referee why you are not responsible for the claims made by the Plaintiff or present other evidence. Court staff cannot advise you on whether to testify or present evidence.
You may also bring witnesses, either someone who has firsthand knowledge of the facts (example, he saw the accident) or is an expert on the subject (example, the mechanic who examined your car after it was towed). You can also present documents or other evidence for the referee to consider. After both sides have presented their arguments, the referee may ask questions or allow cross-examination. The referee may decide the case immediately; if the matter is complicated, the referee may take the case "under advisement." This means that the referee will consider the facts, or research questions of law, and will issue a decision in writing at a later time.
If the case is heard by a referee, the referee will prepare written "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendations." Either party may object to the referee's written decision by filing a Formal Objection within 5 days after receipt of that decision. Because of this rule, two outcomes are possible:
o A timely objection can be filed, and a Justice of the Peace will review the matter by "trial de novo" (a new trial in which evidence is heard as if the case had never been heard by the referee) before issuing a final judgment, or
2. If a timely objection is not filed, the Court will automatically accept the referee's findings, and the referee's decision will become a judgment. At that time, copies of the final judgment can be obtained at the Justice Court Clerk's Office.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE REFEREE’S DECISION IS NOT ENFORCEABLE IN ANY MANNER UNTIL THE FORMAL OBJECTION PERIOD HAS EXPIRED.
Parties may search for Small Claims Cases. Look for the case by Case Number, or either Plaintiff or Defendant name. Complete instructions on how to search for calendar dates can be found on the Calendar Inquiry Page.
Important Plaintiff Information
This is your claim. You are the Plaintiff. The Court will make a decision in the case from the information you provide. The Court does not investigate Defendant addresses, employment, bank accounts, or other information. The Court does not collect money for you. If the Court awards you a Judgment on the claim, you are responsible for locating all information needed to collect on that Judgment and taking any other legal action necessary to collect. Court employees cannot offer you advice on how to collect your judgment.
Important Information for Parties in Small Claims Cases
Court employees may only explain Court procedures. They are prohibited by Nevada law from offering legal advice. Assistance is provided by the Self-Help Center located on the 1st floor of the Regional Justice Center, 200 Lewis Ave., in Downtown Las Vegas and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday except holidays. They provide instructions and help in filling out common Court forms. Their web site is: http://www.clarkcountycourts.us/CivilSHC/index.html. If you have specific questions on Small Claims matters, consult an attorney or contact the Clark County Law Library. The Law Library's address is: 309 S. Third St. #400, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89155-7340. The phone number is: (702) 455-4696. Library staff cannot provide legal advice, but they may refer you to sources you may research.
All other Nevada Counties
After the Defendant has been served with the Small Claims complaint, he/she is not required to file an Answer with the court.
Naturally, the Defendant has the right to call the Plaintiff and settle the case before the day of the hearing. Further, the Defendant has the right to file a Continuance (ask the court for a hearing date farther out). If this happens, you will be notified by the court before your hearing. The Plaintiff also has the right to file a Continuance. Regardless of which party files the Continuance, it must be filed a minimum number of days before the hearing. Most states require the Continuance filing at least ten (10) days before the hearing.
After being served, the Defendant also has the right to file a Counter-Claim. This claim must be filed at court and served upon you, the Plaintiff, before the hearing date. The Judge will hear both parties’ claims on the day of the hearing.
Nevada Small Claims Courts, similar to most states, offer Mediation or Dispute Resolution Services before and/or on the day of your hearing. Naturally, both parties must agree to mediate their case. These services in Nevada are purely optional. If an agreement is not made through Mediation, the parties simply proceed back to the courtroom where the Judge will hear their case.
If the Defendant does not do any of the above, he/she is required to appear at the hearing. If the Plaintiff appears and the Defendant does not, the Plaintiff will most likely be awarded a Default Judgment. You will still be required to show the Judge evidence of your claim. If you are unable to substantiate your claim, you are not guaranteed this Default Judgment. The Judge can order a new trial if he/she believes that more evidence is required.
Important note for Plaintiff’s. If you do not appear at your hearing (regardless if the Defendant appears), the case will be dismissed. However, almost all states dismiss the case Without Prejudice. This means that you are able to file the case again at a later time.