You can file a claim in Conciliation Court for up to $15,000. If your claim involves consumer credit, then the maximum amount is $4,000. These are the maximum amounts allowed before you add the court filing fee (see “What is the fee to file in Conciliation Court?” below).
Court Administration cannot accept claims over $15,000. You can choose to lower your claim to the limit of Conciliation Court, but you cannot later ask for more through another claim or split your claim into multiple smaller claims if they involve the same circumstances.
You can generally file for out-of-pocket expenses and for return of property in Conciliation Court. Some examples include:
- Security deposit
- Property damage
- Return of pet(s)
- Return of seized vehicle or other property
Some claims that you cannot file in Conciliation Court include:
- Title to real estate
- Libel or slander
- Medical malpractice
- Actions against deceased people
For a complete list of the types of claims that are and are not allowed in Conciliation Court, see Minn. Stat. § 491A.01
There are different statutes of limitation
, and which one applies depends on the type of claim and facts of the case. If you have questions about the statute of limitations in your case, talk with a lawyer
to get legal advice.
Generally, a Conciliation Court claim is filed in the county where the defendant lives or has a place of business. If the defendant is a corporation, you can also file in the county where the business office or branch office is located. For more information on business locations, contact the MN Secretary of State
There are two common exceptions:
- If the case involves "bad checks," the claim should be filed in the District Court of the county where the checks were written.
- If the case involves a landlord-tenant dispute, the case may be filed in the District Court of the county where the rental property is located.
See Minn. Stat. § 491A.01
for other exceptions. Court staff cannot tell you where to file your case. If you are not sure where to file, talk to a lawyer
for legal advice.
There are several ways you can start a Conciliation Court claim. You can:
To complete the Statement of Claim and Summons, you need the following information:
- your name and address;
- The name and address of the defendant (home address if the defendant is a person; address of principal place of business if a business entity);
- the amount of your claim; and
- the legal reason for the claim and the date your claim occurred.
You must sign the claim and file it with the court. You will need to pay the filing fee at the time of filing. See below for more information about filing fees and fee waivers.
Court staff can explain how to fill out the form, but they cannot tell you who to sue or how to write your claim. Talk with a lawyer
to get legal advice if you need help with your case.
You can find the Conciliation Court filing fee on the District Court fees page
. To find the filing fee, choose the county you are filing in from the drop-down menu and look for “Plaintiff / Petitioner and Defendant / Respondent - First Paper Filed.”
If you have a low income and cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive the fee by filling out an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Conciliation Court Filing Fee
form and filing it with your claim.
Keep in mind that sometimes there may be additional costs. For example, there is an extra cost of $5 if you choose to file your forms with the court electronically.
Yes. Rule 506 of the General Rules of Practice
states that if you win the case, the amount of the filing fee you would have paid must be added to your claim. You must then pay that money to the court administrator when you collect on the judgment.
For claims under $2,500
, the Court Administrator's office will serve the claim on the defendant by first class mail stating the date and time of the hearing. You will also receive a Notice of Hearing from the court as to the date and time of the hearing.
For claims over $2,500
or if service cannot be made by first class mail, the Court Administrator’s office will give you a Notice of Hearing and instructions on how you have to arrange for service. Generally, you must serve copies of both your Statement of Claim and Summons and the Notice of Hearing on the defendant. After service is completed, the person who served the paperwork will fill out an Affidavit of Service
. This Affidavit of Service must be filed with the court within 60 days of the issuance of the summons or before your court date, whichever is sooner.
If you were served with a Statement of Claim and Summons and you disagree with the plaintiff’s claim, you can respond at the hearing without the need to file anything. However, if you believe that the plaintiff owes you money or has property they should return to you, you can consider filing a counterclaim. Generally, a counterclaim relates to the same circumstances as the plaintiff’s claim, but counterclaims related to different circumstances are also allowed. If you have questions about whether to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff or to file a new claim, talk to a lawyer
for some advice.
You can download the Statement of Counterclaim and Summons
form online or get the form at your local courthouse. You must file the counterclaim and pay the filing fee
(or file a fee waiver
) at least 7 days before the scheduled hearing.
You do not need to serve your counterclaim on the plaintiff. The Court Administrator will let the plaintiff know that you filed a counterclaim, and it will be heard at the same hearing as the claim.
If your counterclaim is more than $15,000
, you can either reduce the amount of your claim to be within the Conciliation Court limit of $15,000, or have the claim and counterclaim heard in District Court.
To be heard in District Court, you must file an affidavit with Conciliation Court at least 7 days before the hearing. See Rule 510(a) of the General Rules of Practice
for more information on what must be included in your affidavit. The MN Judicial Branch does not publish a specific affidavit for this purpose. If you need help preparing an affidavit or have other questions about removing a case to District Court, talk to a lawyer
for some advice.
If you need to ask the court to reschedule your court date (called a continuance), your request must be in writing and filed at least 5 days before your court date. You may have to pay costs of up to $50 before you get a new court date. Each party can only ask for a new court date once.
No, the law requires Conciliation Court hearings to be in front a judge or referee.
Yes. You can ask court administration to issue you a subpoena. You can use the subpoena to require a witness to appear for a hearing, or to demand someone to give you documents.
You will need to pay a fee
for each subpoena you want. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for it be waived by completing and filing an Affidavit for Proceeding In Forma Pauperis
and a Supplemental Affidavit for Proceeding In Forma Pauperis
with the court. If you are requesting multiple subpoenas, you will need to fill out a Supplemental Affidavit for each subpoena request.
If you have any documents or photos you want to show the judge, you should bring at least 3 copies to court (if appearing in person). One copy is for you, one is for the judge, and the third is for the other party. If you do not have copies for all parties, the judge may choose not to consider it.
You may also want to review the Going to Court Help Topic
If you need help deciding how to present your case, or determining whether your evidence is relevant, talk to a lawyer
for some legal advice.
If you filed a claim and have decided to settle the case with the other party, you must notify court administration in writing. One option is to fill out and file the Notice of Settlement and Dismissal
form. With this option, your case will be dismissed before the hearing without a more detailed settlement agreement entered into the case.
If you prefer to have an enforceable settlement agreement included in your case, you can fill out and file a Settlement Agreement and Order
. This form must be signed by both parties and lays out the details of the settlement agreement (for example, Defendant must pay plaintiff a certain amount of money by a specific date). With this option, the agreement must be approved by the judge at your scheduled court hearing.
If the judge approved a signed Settlement Agreement and Order at your court hearing, the agreement and/or the court order will often say that the court may enter a judgment without a hearing if one of the parties files an affidavit explaining that the agreement was violated. If your settlement agreement or court order has this language and the other party violates your agreement, you can fill out and file an Affidavit of Noncompliance
for more information). This document tells the court exactly how the agreement has not been followed and asks the court to enter a judgment instead.
At the hearing you and the defendant will appear (either in person or remotely) in front of a judge or referee, who may encourage you to settle the case. As the plaintiff, you will be asked to state your case first. All parties and witnesses who appear will testify under oath. You can use notes prepared ahead of time to help you clearly explain how you calculated the amount of damage you are claiming. You can show the judge evidence that supports your claim, such as receipts, repair bills, estimates, and other items.
When it is the defendant’s turn to speak, you should not interrupt them. If you disagree with something the defendant says, ask the judge if you can respond to their statement. The judge can ask questions of you, the defendant, or any witnesses that appear for the hearing.
You can learn more by watching the How to Handle a Conciliation Court Hearing
The judge or referee may or may not make a decision on the claim at the time of the hearing. Court administration will send notice of the decision (called an order) to all parties.
Keep in mind that any Conciliation Court judgment does not become effective until 24 days after the order is mailed out (or 21 days if the order is sent electronically). This 24-day period allows a party to appeal
or request to vacate a default judgment
. The last day of the 24-day period will be listed in the order.
All parties must appear for the hearing. If you do not appear at the hearing, the judge may dismiss your claim or counterclaim, or award a "default" judgment against you. If neither party appears for the hearing, the judge may dismiss the case, or court administration may strike the case from the calendar.
If you did not appear for the hearing and the judge dismissed your claim or ordered a judgment for the other party, you can ask the judge to vacate the order and set a new court date so you can appear and state your case. This must be done by completing the Affidavit and Order Vacating Order for Judgment and Granting New Trial
and filing it with the court.
The judge’s order will not become effective until 24 days after notice of the judgment is mailed to you (or 21 days if it is sent electronically). The court administrator will tell you the exact date in the notice.
- If the deadline in the judge’s order has not passed, follow Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 520(a). You must complete and file the Affidavit before the deadline in the judge’s order.
- If the deadline in the judge’s order has already passed, Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 520(b) requires that you file a motion with the court within a “reasonable” time after learning of the judgment. The judge will decide whether the time period has been reasonable. You must serve a copy of your motion to all other parties, and file the motion and Affidavit of Service with court administration.
There are very specific reasons in the rule for why the judge can grant your request to vacate the order and schedule a new hearing. If you are not sure how best to make your argument, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer
If your request for a new hearing is granted, the judge may require you to pay a fee to reopen the case. This fee must be paid before the judgment can be vacated and the new court date set. If a court date is set, court administration will notify all parties.
If you disagree with the Conciliation Court decision, you can appeal by filing a Demand for Removal/Appeal from Conciliation Court
. This will remove the case to District Court for a new trial. See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 521
In District Court, you can ask for your appeal to be decided by either a judge or by a jury. There will be more fees if you would like your case decided by a jury.
The Rules of Civil Procedure
apply to cases that are removed to District Court. District Court is more formal and complex than Conciliation Court. Because appeals are more complicated, you should get help from a lawyer
. Court staff cannot give legal advice or help you prepare your appeal.
You can only appeal the Conciliation Court judgment if both parties appeared and there was a trial. You cannot appeal if the judge granted a default judgment. You also cannot appeal a case if you did not show up to the hearing. Instead, you can ask the court to vacate the judgment and set a new hearing. See “Can I ask the court for a new hearing if I missed my court date?”
Filing an appeal in Conciliation Court removes the case to District Court, where it is started over from the beginning. Appeals are more complicated, more formal, and take longer than a Conciliation Court claim. Appeals to District Court are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure
You should be prepared to present your case, have your witnesses ready to testify, and have all your evidence available. Keep in mind that you may have to subpoena your witnesses again.
You are encouraged to review the Civil Trial: What to Expect as a Self-Represented Plaintiff or Defendant
booklet to prepare for your trial. It is also a good idea to talk to a lawyer
for legal advice.
You have 30 days after removal to District Court to amend your claim or counterclaim. Within the 30 days, you must serve the other party with a formal complaint and file it, along with an Affidavit of Service, with the court. See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 522
You will need to pay the initial civil filing fee
for a District Court case at the time you file your appeal paperwork. If you cannot afford these fees, you can request that they be waived by filling out fee waiver forms. See the Fee Waiver (IFP) Help Topic
for more information.
If you appeal and do not win, you may be required to pay the other party $50 as "costs." See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 524
Yes, you can appeal your case again to the MN Court of Appeals. However, the procedures and rules for the Court of Appeals are different than for District Court and Conciliation Court. You will not be able to submit new evidence to support your case.
See the Court of Appeals Help Topic
for more information. You are strongly encouraged to talk to a lawyer
about whether you should pursue an appeal. You may be able to get free legal advice through the Appeals Self-Help Clinic
The first step in collecting a judgment is to have the judgment "docketed.” This process is sometimes called “transcribing the judgment.” You can docket a judgment by filing an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor
form with court administration in the county where you won your judgment. There will be a fee
for docketing the judgment.
Judgment interest will be added to the amount of your judgment starting on the date the judgment was entered. This interest is calculated automatically by the court.
Winning a case in Conciliation Court does not guarantee payment. You are responsible for collecting your judgment from the other party. The court does not collect the payment for you. Collecting a judgment is not always easy and may involve more out-of-pocket expenses for filing fees and other costs.
For more detailed steps on how to collect on a judgment, see the Judgments Help Topic