Small Claims Court in Multnomah County

In Multnomah County, OR small claims cases are filed in circuit court. Multnomah County has two circuit courts that handle small claims, serving different jurisdictions.

Squabble is here to assist you in navigating the small claims court system and filing a claim with ease. We recognize that not everyone is a legal expert, and our goal is to simplify the process for you. This guide will answer your questions about filing claims in the Multnomah Court System.

Small Claims Court

Multnomah County small claims court is designed for resolving disputes involving claims typically less than $10,000. It offers a simplified and economical process where cases can be decided quickly and informally. One distinctive feature of small claims courts is that individuals do not necessarily need to hire a lawyer; in fact, in many cases, bringing a lawyer requires special permission from the judge. This setup allows individuals to represent themselves straightforwardly, making the process accessible and efficient for resolving smaller legal disputes.

Cases Handled

Small claims court serves as a venue for handling claims involving money or the recovery of personal property valued at under $750. Additionally, individuals can also use small claims court for similar claims valued between $750 and $10,000, provided they opt not to engage a lawyer and seek a relatively prompt resolution. However, certain types of cases are not eligible for small claims court, including class action suits, specific inmate actions, and cases calling for statutory attorney fees where the claim exceeds $750. The court setting is designed to facilitate accessible and expedited resolutions for individuals pursuing smaller-scale legal disputes.

For instance:

  • Tenant/Landlord Dispute
  • Personal Injury
  • Stolen Property
  • Damaged Property
  • Debt Collection
  • Auto Repair
  • Poor Construction
  • Product Defect
  • Broken Contracts or Verbal Promises

Small Claim Process

To file a lawsuit in small claims court, follow these steps:

  1. Attempt to Settle: Before filing your claim, make a genuine effort to settle the dispute with the other party. This can be done through direct communication, either by phone or in writing. Keep your communications clear, straightforward, and devoid of emotional language, as they may be used later in court.
  2. Prepare Your Affidavit: When you file your claim with the court, you'll need to sign an affidavit stating that you've made a bona fide effort to resolve the issue outside of court.
  3. Gather Documentation: Collect all relevant information and documents that support your case. This includes copies of contracts, agreements, receipts, correspondence, and any other evidence that substantiates your claim.
  4. Identify the Parties: Determine who you are suing (the defendant) and where you need to file your case. As the plaintiff, you bear the responsibility of proving your case, so having thorough documentation is crucial.
  5. Arrange Witnesses: If you have witnesses who can provide testimony to support your claim, gather their contact information and arrange for their presence at the trial. Alternatively, you may arrange for witnesses to testify via telephone in advance, as written letters from witnesses may not be admissible in court.
  6. File Your Claim: Go to the courthouse where you plan to file your claim. Typically, small claims forms are available at the court clerk's office. Fill out the necessary forms completely and accurately. Be prepared to pay the filing fee, which varies by jurisdiction.
  7. Serve the Defendant: After filing your claim, you must properly serve the defendant with a copy of the court papers. This usually involves delivering the documents to the defendant personally or by certified mail, depending on the court rules.
  8. Prepare for Court: Once the defendant is served and the court sets a date for the hearing, prepare yourself by reviewing your evidence and practicing your presentation. Be organized and ready to present your case effectively.

Gathering Information

To file a lawsuit effectively, you'll need the following information and preparations:

  1. Your Information: Provide your complete name and address. This ensures the court has your contact details for correspondence.
  2. Defendant's Information: Gather the complete name and address of each person or business you are suing. Accuracy is crucial as incorrect names or addresses can affect the court's ability to grant a judgment. For businesses, verify details through the Oregon Secretary of State’s office or their online portal to ensure you have the correct legal entity and registered agent information.
  3. Claim Amount: Specify the amount you are claiming in damages. Small claims court typically handles claims of $10,000 or less.
  4. Basis of Claim: Prepare a clear and concise statement outlining the basis of your claim. Include the date the claim arose and any other relevant dates or events that support your case.
  5. Filing Fees: Be prepared to pay the required filing fees at the time of submitting your claim. These fees cover administrative costs associated with processing your lawsuit.

By gathering this information and ensuring all details are accurate and complete, you can effectively file your lawsuit in small claims court in Oregon. This preparation sets the foundation for presenting your case clearly and professionally before the court.

Filing a Case

Once you're ready to begin your lawsuit, follow these steps to file in small claims court in Oregon:

  1. Visit the Small Claims Department: Go to the Small Claims Department at the courthouse where your claim is to be filed. The courthouse clerk will provide you with the necessary forms to initiate your claim. While they can offer limited assistance in filling out forms, they cannot provide legal advice.
  2. Filing Your Documents: Complete your small claims documents accurately and truthfully. You'll need to swear under oath that your statement is true when you file. Prepare to pay the required filing fees, which typically must be paid in cash, money order, or company check. Personal checks are usually not accepted.
  3. Jury Trial Option: You may choose to pay an additional fee if you wish to have a jury trial. This fee can usually be added to the amount you're seeking in your claim if you win.
  4. Proceeding in Court: After filing, the court will schedule a date for your hearing. Be prepared to present your case effectively, including bringing all necessary evidence and witnesses to support your claim.

Where to file

If you've got an accident claim (tort), you can file it in the county where the accident occurred or where the person you're suing lives. If your issue involves a service or purchase, you can file in the county where the service was supposed to happen or where the business is based. In some cases, you have options. For instance, if the person you're suing lives in one county but agreed to provide services in another, you can choose to file your lawsuit in either county.

Filing Fees

The filing fees can differ depending on the county. Generally, expect to pay between $50 and $100, depending on the value of your claim and the specific court you file in. If you're a defendant in a small claims court and wish to challenge a claim against you, there might also be a fee involved, but this can vary between courts, so it's best to confirm with the clerk's office.

Serving the Defendant

Once you file your claim, the defendant must be informed about it by serving them with a copy of the claim and notice of your lawsuit. The court will provide instructions on how this notice should be delivered. Typically, you can use the sheriff's office or hire a private process server to serve the defendant.

Next, after about two weeks, call the court clerk to confirm whether the defendant has been served and to find out the exact date of service. This date is crucial because it usually determines when the trial will be scheduled. Always double-check the trial date with the court clerk and plan to arrive at the courthouse early, as some places may have security checks and long lines.


If you or any of your witnesses require an interpreter, you can request interpreter services from the court. It's important to make this request well in advance of the trial date, especially if interpreter availability in your county is limited.


Upon receiving the notice of your claim, the defendant must act within 14 days by choosing one of these options:

  1. Acknowledgement and Payment: They can agree the claim is valid and pay the amount to the court clerk. If there's disputed property, they must deliver it to you along with any fees you've paid. After payment, you must provide them proof, which they then send to the court.
  2. Request a Hearing and Counterclaim: The defendant may request a hearing to dispute your claim or assert a counterclaim against you. If their counterclaim exceeds $10,000, the case will need to be moved to a circuit court.
  3. Request a Jury Trial: If your claim against them is more than $750, they have the right to request a jury trial. The court clerk will then inform both parties about the next steps, including potential arbitration or filing a formal complaint. It's crucial for both parties to follow these procedures promptly to ensure the legal process proceeds smoothly and fairly.

If the Defendant Fail to Respond

If the defendant fails to respond to your small claims court filing, you can request a default judgment by submitting a form to the court clerk. This allows the court to rule in your favor for the amount you're claiming, plus court costs. It's crucial to monitor the case progress by checking with the clerk regularly. If you don't file for default judgment and the defendant doesn't respond within 90 days, your claim may be dismissed.


In court, judges often start with mediation to facilitate communication between parties and seek agreement with the help of a neutral mediator. If mediation isn't chosen or doesn't lead to a resolution, a hearing proceeds where both sides present their case. This may happen on the same day as mediation, taking about two to three hours in total.

During the hearing, bring witnesses and evidence like photos, documents, receipts, or contracts to support your position. Everything presented in court influences the judge's decision. For complex cases, providing a written summary can clarify your stance. The judge reviews evidence, questions parties and witnesses, and then announces a decision either immediately or later.


During the hearing, the court starts with a docket call to announce your case. You should respond when your case is called. The judge usually explains the trial procedure and welcomes questions for clarification.

When the trial commences, both you and your witnesses will be sworn in to testify truthfully. As the plaintiff, you begin by presenting your case, including your prepared statement and any evidence such as documents or photos. You may call witnesses to support your claims. After presenting your case, the defendant will have the opportunity to present their side, offering their own testimony and evidence.

Once both parties have presented their arguments and witnesses, and all questions have been addressed, the judge will deliberate on the facts and decide the outcome of the case. This decision may include determining if there are any damages to be awarded. If the judge needs more time to make a decision, they will inform both parties of when to expect the verdict.

After Verdict

After the judge reaches a decision, they will complete a judgment form that specifies the winning party and any monetary award or instructions regarding property. The losing party is obligated to comply by paying the awarded sum or delivering the specified property according to the court's directive. This marks the conclusion of the legal process for that particular case.

Collect Judgment

After obtaining a judgment, it's your responsibility to collect it as the court does not do this on your behalf. You'll need to locate assets owned by the defendant that can be used to satisfy the judgment.

If the defendant refuses to pay, you may consider garnishing their wages or bank account. Garnishment forms are not provided by the court and can be purchased from legal form stores. Additionally, you can place a lien on the defendant's real property, seize some of their personal property, or enlist the sheriff to recover your property. If you're unsure where the defendant banks or their property is located, you can request the court to summon the defendant to provide information under oath about their assets.

You are responsible for the costs associated with these enforcement methods, but these expenses can typically be recovered from the defendant. Be prepared to prepare and file additional legal documents with the court as part of this process.

Losing the Case

If you do not win your case and the judge rules against you, you will lose the fees you paid to initiate the lawsuit. Additionally, you will be required to reimburse the defendant for the fees they paid to the court when requesting the trial, as well as any prevailing party fees that may apply.

Moreover, if the defendant filed a counterclaim and the judge rules in their favor, they may be awarded money from you as part of the judgment. It's important to consider these potential outcomes before pursuing legal action and to prepare accordingly for the financial responsibilities involved in both winning and losing a case.

Let Squabble Help You With Your Small Claim at Multnomah County

Don't allow the intricacies of the legal system to discourage you from pursuing justice and compensation for your claim. With Squabble, you have a dedicated partner to streamline the process and guide you toward resolution. Whether you're contemplating filing a claim at Multnomah County small claims court, Squabble is here to support you at every stage. Reach out to us today to commence your journey toward justice and compensation. Get started today and become one of the 95% of our customers who won or settled their case.

Courthouses Location:

  1. Multnomah County Courthouse

    1200 SW 1st Ave
    Portland, OR 97204
    (971) 274-0500


    • Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except court holidays.
  2. East County Courthouse

    18480 SE Stark Street
    Portland, OR 97233
    (971) 274-0700


    • Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except court holidays.
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