Minnesota Attorney General's Office
1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
M - F 8 am - 5 pm
Who May Use Conciliation Court?
Any person (18 years or older), company, government agency or organization may sue or be sued in conciliation court. A person under 18 may sue, or be sued, but they must be represented in court by a parent or guardian.
How Much Money Can You Recover?
The maximum amount you may recover through conciliation court is $10,000. This amount increases to $15,000 effective August 1, 2014. (The maximum for consumer credit transactions is $4,000.)
You cannot file a claim in conciliation court that exceeds the monetary limit set by law. If you reduce your claim to the limit of conciliation court, you cannot claim more later. This rule may apply to any other claims related to the same incident. Obtaining a judgment in conciliation court may prevent you from bringing any other claims based on the same transaction or occurrence.
Do You Need an Attorney?
No. Court procedures are simplified to allow you to represent yourself. You may have an attorney only if the judge lets you. Also, the judge can decide how the attorney participates.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Conciliation Court?
Conciliation court doesn’t offer the best course of action in every situation. Generally, you may sue only for money. Disputes involving over the maximum set by law cannot be determined in conciliation court. Lost or destroyed property or merchandise usually cannot be recovered. For example, if a dry cleaner loses your jacket, a conciliation court might order the dry cleaner to pay you money for your loss rather than order the cleaner to replace the jacket. In addition, conciliation court usually cannot be used to force delivery or completion (such as redoing a repair job or delivering merchandise). This kind of problem must usually be translated into financial terms, such as how much it will cost to have someone else make the repair.
Be aware of these facts:
- You must be prepared to appear in conciliation court when your case is set.
- Expenses such as time lost from work are usually not recoverable.
- In Minnesota, the largest amount for which you can sue in conciliation court is set by law. The judge cannot award more than this amount.
- If you win your case, the defendant usually will not have to pay more than the amount the court awards you. Don’t expect the defendant to be sent to jail or required to pay a fine.
- Delays occur frequently for various reasons. (When these delays change the day set for a hearing, they are called “continuances.”)
- Conciliation court may not be very effective in resolving disputes with companies that don’t have property located in the area or with people who live outside the court’s jurisdiction. It is especially difficult if the company or person is located in another state.
- In some situations, it may be quicker, more effective, and less troublesome to hire an attorney.
What Types of Complaints Do Conciliation Courts Handle?
In general, the types of cases handled include property damage, money disputes arising out of a tenant/landlord relationship, personal injury (actual medical bills only), losses due to bad checks, nonpayment for goods or services, or other bad claims involving real estate titles.
Generally, you can file a complaint in conciliation court when you can show that a person or business owes you money but won’t pay you.
Conciliation court may be used when:
- You believe someone owes you money;
- That person or business refuses to pay;
- The amount owed is less than the maximum amount allowed in conciliation court; and
- You believe the person or company you are suing will be able to pay you (because it will cost you some money to make your claim).
Examples of situations in which you might consider using conciliation court include:
- You sold someone a snowmobile, that person has not paid you, and you want the snowmobile back.
- You performed work for someone, but the person refuses to pay you.
- Your former landlord won’t refund your security deposit, even though you did not damage the rental property.
- A repair shop does defective work on your car and won’t correct it or reimburse you.
- Your neighbor backs his motorcycle into your car and refuses to pay the repair bill.
- A dry cleaner loses your new jacket and offers you only a fraction of its worth.
If you are uncertain about whether you can bring your claim, talk to your county’s conciliation court administrator. The court administrator will tell you if your claim can be heard there.
Where May Claims Be Filed?
You must file your conciliation court claim in the right county. This is the county where the person against whom you are making a claim (the defendant) lives. If the defendant is a business, you should sue in the county where the business or branch office is located. There are some exceptions to this. You may want to call the conciliation court in your county for more information about those exceptions.
If you are seeking recovery for a dishonored check, or are making a claim for a security deposit on rental property, then you should file your claim in the county where the check was issued or where the rental property is located.
How Do You File a Claim?
If you file a claim, you are the “plaintiff” and the party you are suing is the “defendant.” As the plaintiff, you begin the process by contacting the court administrator’s office in the county where you are filing the claim. (The phone numbers of the conciliation courts in several Minnesota counties are located on pages 12 and 13 of this brochure.) You will be charged a filing fee and law library fee. The total fees vary by county, but are generally between $55 and $65.
Completing the Complaint Form
You will be required to fill out a uniform conciliation court form. If you ask, a person from the court administrator’s office will help you complete the form. See the page 14 of this book for a sample form. Forms are available online at www.courts.state.mn.us/forms.
In addition to putting your name and address on the form, you must provide the following information:
- The name (no abbreviations or nicknames) and address of the defendant. (Use the home address if the defendant is an individual.) If this information is incorrect or incomplete, your case may be dismissed. To learn the proper name and address of a company doing business in Minnesota, contact the Secretary of State, 180 State Office Building,
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155-1299,
651-296-2803. Information is also available on their website at: www.sos.state.mn.us.
- The amount of your claim and a reason (one or two paragraphs) for requesting it. Include specific dates, times, and places. You must verify the claim by signing the form before a notary or court deputy. You must also pay the court fees. If you win your case, the court may order the defendant to pay you for the fees.
Notification of the Trial Date
It is possible that two to six weeks may pass between the time you file your claim and the day you have your hearing. Generally, the court administrator’s office will mail, by first class mail, notices to you and the defendant indicating the date and time for the hearing. If the claim exceeds $2,500, however, then the plaintiff must serve the summons upon the defendant via certified mail. Service by certified mail must be proven by filing an affidavit of service with court. An affidavit of service should be in the form of Form 508.1 on page 17 of this brochure.
Many cases settle when the defendant receives notice of the hearing. It is your responsibility to tell the court administrator in writing if you and the defendant settle your case. Do this by signing and returning to the court your copy of the hearing notice.
The Defendant May File a Counterclaim
If you are the party being sued (the defendant) in the case, and you have a claim against the party suing you (the plaintiff), you may be able to file a counterclaim. The procedure is similar to that for filing a claim, but it must be filed at least five business days prior to the court date (Saturday, Sunday, and holidays are not included).
The court will notify the plaintiff that a counterclaim has been filed. The counterclaim will be heard by the court at the same time the original claim is scheduled to be heard.
The claim will be transferred to district court if the counterclaim is above the legal limit for conciliation court ($10,000, increasing to $15,000 effective August 1, 2014). If the defendant fails to file the counterclaim in district court after giving notice of intent to do so, the plaintiff may have the claim reinstated in conciliation court. The plaintiff may do this any time after 30 days and before three years by filing an affidavit with the court administrator. The affidavit must say that the defendant has not served you with a summons to district court.