The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 5531. Rules governing procedure
(a) The Supreme Court, pursuant to section 1 of this title, shall make rules under this chapter applicable to such Court providing for a simple, informal, and inexpensive procedure for the determination, according to the rules of substantive law, of actions of a civil nature of which they have jurisdiction, other than actions for slander or libel and in which the plaintiff does not claim as debt or damage more than $5,000.00. Small claims proceedings shall be limited in accord with this chapter and the procedures made available under those rules. The procedure shall not be exclusive, but shall be alternative to the formal procedure begun by the filing of a complaint.
(b) Parties may not request claims for relief other than money damages under this chapter. Nor may parties split a claim in excess of $5,000.00 into two or more claims under this chapter.
(c) In small claims actions where the plaintiff makes a claim for relief greater than $3,500.00, the defendant shall have the right to request a special assignment of a judicial officer. Upon making this request, a Superior judge or a member of the Vermont bar appointed pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 22(b) shall be assigned to hear the action.
(d) Venue in small claims actions shall be governed by section 402 of this title. (Amended 1965, No. 194, § 8, eff. July 1, 1965, operative Feb. 1, 1967; 1967, No. 65; 1967, No. 311 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. March 22, 1968; 1971, No. 44, § 1; 1973, No. 249 (Adj. Sess.), § 40, eff. April 9, 1974; 1977, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1983, No. 208 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1993, No. 160 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1996; 2007, No. 39, § 3; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 83.)
§ 5532. Pleadings; fees
Procedure in the Superior Court shall be instituted without writ or pleading other than a concise statement on a form provided by the clerk who shall file the complaint in a docket kept for that purpose. (Amended 1965, No. 194, § 8, eff. July 1, 1965, operative Feb. 1, 1967; 1967, No. 119, § 2; 1971, No. 44, § 2; 1973, No. 249 (Adj. Sess.), § 41, eff. April 9, 1974; 1975, No. 227 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1977, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1985, No. 54, § 5; 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1996.)
§ 5533. Other procedure
(a) The plaintiff shall supply to the clerk the following information:
(1) the plaintiff's name, residence address, and telephone number;
(2) defendant's name and place of residence, place of business or employment; and
(3) the nature and amount of the plaintiff's claim, giving dates and other relevant information.
(b) The clerk shall reduce the information required in subsection (a) of this section to writing in concise, nontechnical form in a docket kept for that purpose, and shall also place it on a form which shall be attached to the summons.
(c) The defendant may include with his or her answer a counterclaim stating a claim which arises out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the plaintiff's claim and which does not require for its adjudication the presence of third parties of whom the court cannot acquire jurisdiction. The relief requested in the counterclaim may exceed the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court, however the judgment shall not exceed that limit. Failure to assert a counterclaim does not prevent the defendant from bringing a later action for the same claim. The judgment of the small claims court on an asserted counterclaim shall not be conclusive between the parties in a later action nor shall the parties be precluded from litigating any issue of fact or law as a result of the judgment on the counterclaim. However, in any later action on the same claim as was raised in the counterclaim, the amount of any judgment shall be reduced by an amount equal to the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court at the time the counterclaim was first asserted. (Amended 1977, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 1983, No. 208 (Adj. Sess.), § 3.)
§ 5534. Attachment; forms
In causes begun under the procedure, on application, the court may issue, for cause shown, writs of attachment of property and trustee process as in other civil actions. Necessary dockets and forms shall be prepared at the expense of the State. (Amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 168, eff. March 29, 1972.)
§ 5535. Jury trial
A plaintiff beginning a cause under the procedure waives a jury trial. The defendant may have a hearing before the court under the procedure. He or she may, prior to the day upon which he or she is notified to appear, file with the court where the cause is pending a request for a trial by jury and his or her affidavit that there are questions of fact in the cause requiring trial, with specifications thereof, and that such is intended in good faith, together with a jury fee of $10.00 and thereupon at the day set for hearing, trial by jury shall be had as in ordinary cases. (Amended 1975, No. 227 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 1977, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 4.)
§ 5536. Representation
Any person, corporation, or other legal entity shall be entitled but not required to be represented by an attorney in small claims court. (Added 1977, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 5.)
§ 5537. Payment of judgments
(a) On request of a judgment creditor whose judgment under this chapter has remained unsatisfied for 30 days, the court shall order the judgment debtor to appear before it and to disclose information relating to his or her ability to pay the judgment in full.
(b) Following disclosure under subsection (a) of this section, the court after hearing may order the judgment debtor to make such payments as the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate. Failure to make such payments may be considered civil contempt of court.
(c) [Repealed.] (Added 1983, No. 208 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2007, No. 39, § 5.)
§ 5538. Appeals
Any party may appeal from a small claims judgment to Superior Court. The Administrative Judge shall assign the appeal to a Superior judge who shall not have participated in any way in the decision being appealed. The appeal shall be heard and decided, based on the record made in the small claims procedure. No appeal as of right exists to the Supreme Court. On motion made to the Supreme Court by a party to the action, the Supreme Court may allow an appeal from the Superior Court. (Added 1983, No. 208 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; amended 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1996; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 84.)
§ 5539. Repealed. 1991, No. 93, § 16b.
§ 5540. Repealed. 2007, No. 51, § 10.
§ 5540a. Jurisdiction over small claims; assistant judges
(a)(1) Subject to the limitations in this section and notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, assistant judges of Essex, Caledonia, Rutland, and Bennington Counties sitting alone shall hear and decide small claims actions filed under this chapter with the Essex, Caledonia, Rutland, and Bennington Superior Courts.
(b) With the exception of assistant judges authorized to preside in small claims matters prior to June 16, 2001 who have successfully completed the testing requirements established herein, an assistant judge hearing cases under this section shall have completed at least 100 hours of relevant training and testing, and observed 20 hours of small claims hearings in accordance with the protocol for said training and observation which shall be established by the Court Administrator in consultation with the Association of Assistant Judges. An assistant judge who hears cases under this section shall annually complete 16 hours of continuing education, established by the Court Administrator in consultation with the Association of Assistant Judges, relating to jurisdiction exercised under this section and shall file a certificate to such effect with the Court Administrator. Law clerk assistance available to Superior judges shall be available to the assistant judges.
(c) A decision of an assistant judge shall be entered as a small claims judgment and may be appealed pursuant to section 5538 of this title. The appeal shall be decided by the presiding judge.
(d) An assistant judge upon successful completion of the training under subsection (b) of this section, shall cause the Superior Court clerk to notify the Court Administrator of the assistant judge's successful completion of training. Upon receipt of such notification, small claims cases which require a hearing shall first be set for hearing before an assistant judge in the Superior Court in the county and shall be heard by the assistant judge. If the assistant judge is unavailable due to illness, vacation, administrative leave, disability, or disqualification, the Administrative Judge pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 22 may assign a judge, or appoint and assign a member of the Vermont bar to serve temporarily as an acting judge, to hear small claims cases in the county. No action filed or pending shall be heard at or transferred to any other location unless agreed to by the parties. If both assistant judges of the county elect to successfully complete training to hear these matters, the senior assistant judge shall make the assignment of cases to be heard by each assistant judge. The assistant judges, once qualified to preside in these matters, shall work with the Court Administrator's office and the Administrative Judge such that the scheduling of small claims cases before the assistant judges are at such times as to permit adequate current court personnel to be available when these cases are heard.
(e) Subdivision (a)(2) of this section shall be repealed effective on January 31, 2011. (Added 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. Sept. 1, 1996; amended 1997, No. 121 (Adj. Sess.), § 32; 2001, No. 70, § 2, eff. June 16, 2001; 2003, No. 58, § 1, eff. June 5, 2003; 2005, No. 71, § 96a; 2005, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 8, eff. May 20, 2006; 2007, No. 51, § 11; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 84a; 2015, No. 58, § E.204.12.)
§ 5541. Composition of court in small claims cases
For the purposes of this chapter, the Superior Court in small claims cases shall consist of the presiding judge sitting alone, an assistant judge sitting alone pursuant to section 5540 of this chapter, or an acting judge assigned pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 22(b). (Added 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. Sept. 1, 1996; amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 85.)