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What is Small Claims Court?
Small Claims Court is a special division of the Superior Court of the U.S.
Virgin Islands. It was established to give persons and entities (corporations,
partnerships, businesses, etc.) the ability to file a lawsuit and represent
themselves in court without hiring a lawyer. A judge will review the lawsuit
and make a decision, just as in any other lawsuit.
What is the highest amount of money a judge can award?
By law, a judge can award up to $10,000.00. The judge can also award, in addition to
that sum, interest and court costs, such as the filing fee and cost of serving the
initial document (complaint) on the opposing party (defendant).
If your claim exceeds $10,000.00, you can waive any amount over $10,000.00 and
still file your claim.
How do I prepare for filing a complaint?
You should compile information pertinent to your case. This may include canceled checks,
purchase orders, written contracts, estimates, police reports and other evidence.
Organize them in chronological order and be sure to check dates carefully.
For example, if you claim that the defendant damaged your car in an accident,
you should bring a copy of the police report and at least two estimates of repairs
for the damaged vehicle. If the defendant owes you money, you should bring proof
of the debt (i.e. promissory notes, canceled checks, leases, and receipts) and other
evidence that you think may prove your claim.
It is recommended that you prepare a short, concise, written statement of your claim
and bring it along with you on the day that you are filing your complaint. Accuracy
is a crucial factor in determining the outcome of a case.
It is essential prior to filing a small claims complaint
that you obtain the current
address of the defendant. If the defendant is an individual, try to obtain the defendant’s
full name, address (i.e. home, place of employment, general hang-out spots, etc.), and
telephone numbers. This will assist the Deputy Marshal in locating the defendant for
service of your complaint and notice of the court date in the matter.
If the defendant is a business, you may obtain pertinent contact information (i.e. the
business’ trade name, owner of the business name and address of the registered agent,
etc.) from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor
, Division of Corporations. To inquire
further about obtaining the necessary information, you may contact that office at (340)
How do you file a lawsuit?
Clerks are trained and available to assist you at the Territorial Court on each
island. It is recommended that you prepare a short, concise statement of your
claim and bring that statement with you when you come to the Court. If you have
access to a typewriter or computer, you can obtain blank Complaint forms
the Court and type your statement yourself. If you do not have such access, the
clerks can assist you. The cost for filing a Complaint is $10.00 and the cost
of serving the Complaint on each Defendant is $30.00.
Are attorneys allowed to represent someone in a small claims matter?
No. Neither party may be represented by counsel and parties must appear in
person, except for corporate parties, associations and partnerships, which
may appear by a personal representative.
How do I file a Small Claims Complaint?
The Court clerks are trained and available to assist individuals in preparing and
typing their complaints. The Court clerks are prohibited from preparing complaints
and other papers required for corporations, associations or partnerships. Court
employees are also prohibited from giving legal advice. The Court clerks are here
to assist you in filing your claims, but we cannot interpret the law for you.
Small Claims Complaint forms can be obtained from the Clerk’s Office or you may
download it by clicking here
. Please note that all Small Claims Complaints
are required to be typed.
Will the defendant be notified of the complaint?
Yes, a deputy marshal will serve the defendant with a summons to appear
before the Court for the scheduled hearing and a copy of your complaint.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary, that you provide current addresses
for each defendant and provide updated information during the pendency of
How will I be notified of the hearing date?
If a date is available at the time you file the complaint, the clerk will
advise you of a date at that time. If a date is unavailable, a Deputy Marshal
will deliver to you a Subpoena with the date and time that you should appear
before the Court. Therefore, it is very important that you provide all
current physical addresses (i.e. home, place of employment, etc.) and updated
information where the Deputy Marshal may locate you for service during the
pendency of the matter.
What should I bring on the day of the trial?
You must be prepared to prove the truthfulness of your claim or, if you are the
defendant, that you are not responsible for the damage or debt that the plaintiff
is claiming. You should bring all documents that pertain to your complaint or
defense. You should bring copies of any documentation (i.e. copy of the police
report; two estimates of repair for the damaged vehicle photographs, surveys;
receipts; cancelled checks and other evidence) so that you can present a vivid
picture of the case to the Court. You may also consider bringing any written
communication that may have been transmitted between the parties. Very often
the judge will want to know it any reasonable efforts were made to settle the
dispute before coming to court.
Can I bring a witness to testify on my behalf at the trial?
Yes, witnesses may be an important part of your case in Small Claims Court.
In cases involving poor workmanship (such as repairs on your car), an experienced
and impartial person in the same trade makes an ideal witness.
Most small claims witnesses are willing to come to court to tell the judge what
happened. Occasionally, a witness will not come to court voluntarily or cannot
get permission to leave work. If a subpoena is necessary in ensuring a witness’s
appearance for the court date, you can request that the Court issue a subpoena.
A subpoena is a court order, which will compel that witness’ appearance in Court.
The Court charges Thirty dollars ($30.00) for the issuance and service of each
In order for a subpoena to be issued, you must provide the Court with the full name,
address and telephone number of the witness. The Deputy Marshal will serve the
subpoena on the witness. Please note that without the subpoena, the witness has no
legal obligation to appear in Court or to testify. It is important that you have all
witnesses whom you need to testify at the Court and prepared to testify on the day
and time of your trial.
How do I file an Answer/Counterclaim?
A defendant may file an Answer/Counter Claim
by coming into the
with any pertinent information that applies to the defense of the
small claims complaint
filed against them. This information may include
canceled checks, purchase orders, written contracts, estimates, police reports
and other evidence. Organize them in chronological order and be sure to check
dates carefully. For example, if you are being sued for damages that occurred
in an automobile accident and you have decided to file a counterclaim, you
should bring at least two (2) estimates of repairs for the damages sustained
to your vehicle. The police report would have been filed with the initial
complaint in the matter. The fee for filing a Counterclaim is Thirty Dollars
($30.00) for the service on the Plaintiff.
Answer/Counterclaim forms can be obtained from the Clerk’s Office or you may
download it by clicking here
. Please note that all Answer/CounterClaims must
Can a trial date be postponed?
Yes. A trial date may be postponed depending on the reasons given for the postponement.
If you need to have the trial postponed, you must file a written letter stating the
reasons for your request. It is up to the judge to whom your case has been assigned
to determine whether the trial will be postponed. Not all requests will be granted.
Do not assume that your case will be postponed simply because you filed a request.
What happens on the day of the trial?
It is advised that you arrive at the courthouse early so that you will be present
in the courtroom when your case is called.
At the trial, both plaintiff and defendant will be given an opportunity to introduce
evidence, ask questions of the witnesses, and explain to the judge why judgment should
be entered in their favor.
The “plaintiff” is the person or entity who filed the complaint; therefore, the
plaintiff will proceed first, providing testimony and evidence to support the
claims made in the complaint. The “defendant” is the person or entity whom the
claim is against. The defendant will have the right to ask the plaintiff and any
witnesses who testified on plaintiff’s behalf, questions at the conclusion of their
Once the plaintiff has concluded presenting his or her case, the defendant will be
given an opportunity to present his or her case (defense). The defendant may testify
and bring witnesses to testify on his or her behalf. The plaintiff will have the
opportunity to question the defendant and any witnesses who testified on the defendant’s
behalf at the conclusion of their testimony.
If a counterclaim was filed, the defendant will be given an opportunity to testify
as to the basis of the counterclaim.
The judge, in his or her discretion, may also question witnesses who appear on either
party’s behalf and the parties themselves.
Finally, the judge will allow both the plaintiff and defendant to make final
statements or questions. The length of hearings varies depending on the complexity
of the cases and the amount of evidence and testimony that is introduced.
After listening to all the testimony and reviewing the evidence, the judge will usually
make a decision that day in Court. The judge may also choose to take more time to
consider the case, and will notify the parties in writing of the Court’s decision at
a later time.
After the judge makes a decision, what happens to the case?
After the judge makes a decision, it will be reduced to a writing. Once the Order
or Judgment has been signed by the judge, the Court will provide a copy of the
decision to both parties.
What is an appeal?
An appeal is the formal request that a court review the judgment, decision,
or order of a lower court and set it aside (reverse it) or modify it. During
the appeals process, you are not allowed to present new facts or to retry old
facts. Either party in a small claims case has a right to appeal a judge’s
To file an appeal you must file a Notice to Appeal in the Clerk’s Office within
thirty (30) days of the date of the entry of Judgment/Order. Thereafter, the
Judge will set an appeal bond, requiring you to post monies usually equivalent
to the amount awarded in the judgment for the further processing of your appeal.
Can a decision be appealed?
Either party in a small claims case has a right to appeal a decision.
An appeal is not a new trial. On appeal, you are not allowed to present
new facts or to retry old facts. To file an appeal you must file a Notice
to Appeal in the Clerk’s Office within thirty (30) days of the date of the
entry of Judgment/Order. Thereafter, the judge will set an appeal bond,
requiring you to post monies usually equivalent to the amount awarded in
the judgment for the further processing of your appeal.
How can I collect on the judgment?
If you are the prevailing party and are awarded monies in a judgment, you may
proceed and collect the monies owed to you ten (10) days after the judgment
is awarded. You may be paid promptly. If you require the assistance of the
Superior Court Marshal in collecting the monies awarded, you must file a Praecipe
(a formal document) requesting that a Writ of Execution be issued to the
party owing the debt.
If a Writ of Execution directs the Territorial Marshal to demand payment from
the judgment debtor. A Writ of Execution is good for sixty (60) days. Please
provide accurate and correct information on the Praecipe in order to assist the
Deputy Marshals in collecting monies on the outstanding judgment.
What is the interest rate for Judgments?
The interest rate accrued on Judgments is 4% per annum.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Small Claims?
The statute of limitations in small claims involving injuring personal
property is six (6) years. The statute of limitations in small claims
regarding actions for debt is ten (10) years.
How do I get a copy of a Small Claims Judgment?
You may request a copy of a Small Claims Judgment from that division. The
cost of each additional copy of a judgment is $1.00 per page. The cost
of a certified copy of a Judgment is $5.00 per document.
What should I do if the defendant pays the debt and court costs prior
to the court date?
Promptly notify the Court in writing so that an order may be entered and the
matter removed from the Court’s calendar.