The Montana legal system gives you several options to help resolve disputes over money, property, or other legal damages. If someone owes you money or property, or if someone else’s actions have caused you harm, you may want to sue them to recover your losses.
Basic disputes over contracts or agreements can sometimes be resolved in small claims court. We’ll talk more about small claims later in this post.
For situations in which you want to recover other types of damages, including things like injuries, damage to your reputation, or cases where you’re seeking more than $7,000 in resolution, small claims court isn’t an option. In these cases, consult with an attorney experienced in the type of case you need to file.
How to Sue Somebody in Montana
If you’re considering filing a civil suit in small claims court, you may not need an attorney’s help.
Suing someone in small claims court is designed to be a simple process. Montana small claims cases are intended to help quickly and inexpensively resolve disputes between individuals, so you should be able to navigate the system without much trouble. There are some situations where you might need a lawyer in small claims court, though.
Outside of small claims court, the best way to file a lawsuit is to consult with a lawyer who specializes in that particular area of law. They’ll walk you through the whole process, considering carefully the nuances in your jurisdiction and individual case.
If you need more information about suing a company, organization, or individual in Montana, get in touch with us. The smartest thing you can do is to get personalized advice about your situation.
The rest of this post shares some basic information about small claims court in Nevada.
Suing Somebody in Montana Small Claims Court
In order to file your complaint in small claims court, it must meet all of the following requirements:
- Your complaint involves a dispute over a contract or agreement
- You are asking for a fixed amount of compensation
- Your compensation amount is easily determined, such as an unpaid balance or a piece of property to be returned
- Your claim is under $7,000
In Montana small claims court, either both parties have an attorney, or neither does. That’s why you’ll likely need a lawyer to sue a company. Corporations and businesses usually have a lawyer to represent them because they’re not individual people. Suing a company almost always means that you’ll need an attorney, too.
The first step towards suing someone in small claims court is asking for a resolution:
Step 1: Send a Demand Letter
Before you file a complaint against someone, you should start by sending them a demand letter.
The demand letter must explain the resolution you want, such as the dollar amount owed. In some cases, the resolution might include the return of property or other specific contract issues, too. Your letter should specify the date by which they need to respond. In Montana, 14 days from the post date is a reasonable minimum.
While you can write and send your own demand letter for small claims, it might be better to have a lawyer send one for you.
A demand letter from an attorney is likely to be taken a little more seriously. Perhaps the recipient will pay and you won’t have to sue at all! The letter your lawyer sends will also satisfy all legal requirements for a demand, so if you do need to file, you’re ready.
Any time you send a demand letter, use certified mail and keep a copy for yourself. You will need to prove that the letter was sent and a resolution wasn’t reached to win your case.
Step 2: File a Complaint
Your complaint can be filed in the county where the defendant will be served or in the county where they live.
To file your complaint, request a complaint form from the justice of the piece or clerk. There’s a small fee to process and deliver the order to the defendant, but you may be able to request a waiver if you can’t afford it. Pay your fee, fill out the form, and sign in front of the clerk or the justice.
With your paperwork filed, it’s time to get ready for your hearing. You can ask the court to subpoena witnesses, and you should gather any documents or other evidence to bring with you on the scheduled date.
The defendant may file a counterclaim up to $6,500 if they believe you owe them money as part of the same dispute.
Step 3: Work on a Resolution
You and the defendant can still resolve your dispute before the hearing. If you decide on a settlement outside of court, you and the defendant should sign a written agreement and submit give a copy to the clerk of the small claims court. Your complaint will be dismissed and you can both go on with your lives.
Some parties choose to employ a mediator or other third party to help settle a dispute before the court date. That’s an option, too.
Assuming no resolution is reached, you, the defendant, and any witnesses appear in court on the appointed day and time.
Both you and the defendant will be able to call and question witnesses, present evidence, and question one another. Witnesses should be subpoenaed well ahead of time, and be sure you bring all evidence with you.
The judge will give a written decision after both parties have had their say.
Collecting the judgment is the responsibility of the winning party, so if you win your case, it’s up to you to collect what you’re owed.
If either party is dissatisfied with the decision, they may file a written appeal within 10 days. Appeals only matter for questions of law and how legal standards were applied to the facts of the case. During an appeal, neither party can call new witnesses or introduce new testimony.
What If They Don’t Pay?
Let’s assume you win your case. Since collection of the judgment is your responsibility, it’s also your responsibility to act if the defendant doesn’t pay what they owe you.
The court is not going to help you collect.
If the party doesn’t pay follow the court’s instructions, you can choose to hire a debt collector to help. Alternatively, you may also be able to sell your judgment to a debt collector for a faster payment.
In some cases, you may also be able to place a lien on the defendant’s property.
Collecting your debts can be a real pain, but in small claims court, it’s part of the package. When you file your complaint, be prepared for the possibility that you’ll have to deal with it.