Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 16.1. Courts Not of Record
Chapter 6. Venue, Jurisdiction and Procedure in Civil Matters

Article 5. Small Claims Court.

§ 16.1-122.1. Small claims court; designated.

On or before July 1, 1999, each general district court shall establish, using existing facilities, a small claims division to be designated a small claims court.

Such courts shall not have jurisdiction over suits against the Commonwealth under the Virginia Tort Claims Act (§ 8.01-195.1 et seq.) or suits against any officer or employee of the Commonwealth for claims arising out of the performance of their official duties or responsibilities.

1988, c. 799; 1989, c. 451; 1990, c. 564; 1994, c. 576; 1995, c. 589; 1998, cc. 656, 779.

§ 16.1-122.2. Jurisdiction.

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the small claims court shall have jurisdiction, concurrent with that of the general district court, over the civil action specified in § 16.1-77 (1) when the amount claimed does not exceed $5,000, exclusive of interest.

1988, c. 799; 2002, c. 704; 2006, c. 141.

§ 16.1-122.3. Actions; how commenced; notice; continuances; pleadings.

A. Actions in the small claims court shall be commenced by the filing of a small claims civil warrant by a plaintiff.

B. At the time of filing a small claims civil warrant, the plaintiff shall pay to the clerk a required fee, which will be taxed as costs in the case. The plaintiff may be afforded the opportunity to receive preprinted information promulgated by the Committee on District Courts explaining the small claims court, including but not limited to information on case preparation, courtroom procedures, methods of collection, removal rights and appeals. The plaintiff shall select a time for the hearing which shall be held at least five days after service of the warrant. Such time shall be subject to concurrence by the clerk's office. The chief judge may limit the number of cases any one person may set for trial on any one date.

C. Upon the filing of the small claims civil warrant in small claims court, the court shall cause notice of process to be served upon the defendant. Notice of process shall consist of a copy of the warrant and shall be served by the method used in general district court. If applicable, the defendant shall be served with a copy of the preprinted information identified in subsection B of this section attached to the copy of the civil warrant.

D. All forms required by this article shall be prescribed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

E. The trial shall be conducted on the first return date. However, by consent of all parties or upon order of the court, the time for trial may be changed from the time set for the first return. A continuance shall be granted to either the plaintiff or defendant only upon good cause shown.

F. There shall be no pleadings in small claims court actions other than the warrant and answer, grounds of defense and counterclaims not to exceed $5,000.

1988, c. 799; 1990, c. 564; 2002, c. 704; 2006, c. 141.

§ 16.1-122.4. Representation and removal; rights of parties.

A. All parties shall be represented by themselves in actions before the small claims court except as follows:

1. A corporate or partnership plaintiff or defendant may be represented by an owner, a general partner, an officer or an employee of that corporation or partnership who shall have all the rights and privileges given an individual to represent, plead and try a case without an attorney. An attorney may serve in this capacity if he is appearing pro se, but he may not serve in a representative capacity.

2. A plaintiff or defendant who, in the judge's opinion, is unable to understand or participate on his own behalf in the hearing may be represented by a friend or relative if the representative is familiar with the facts of the case and is not an attorney.

B. A defendant shall have the right to remove the case to the general district court at any point preceding the handing down of the decision by the judge and may be represented by an attorney for that purpose.

1988, c. 799; 1997, c. 243; 2001, c. 74.

§ 16.1-122.5. Informal hearings; rules of evidence suspended.

In trials before the small claims court, witnesses shall be sworn. The general district court judge shall conduct the trial in an informal manner so as to do substantial justice between the parties. The judge shall have the discretion to admit all evidence which may be of probative value although not in accordance with formal rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except that privileged communications shall not be admissible. The object of such trials shall be to determine the rights of the litigants on the merits and to dispense expeditious justice between the parties.

1988, c. 799.

§ 16.1-122.6. Judgment and collection.

The small claims court shall follow the procedures of the general district court in judgment and collection.

1988, c. 799.

§ 16.1-122.7. Appeals.

Appeals from the small claims court shall be as in other cases from the general district court.

1988, c. 799.