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What are Iowa Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?

In Iowa, the small claims court serves as a public forum for residents to resolve legal disputes. Cases in this court are normally conducted informally, allowing the litigants to bring the claims directly. Iowa small claims court proceedings usually appear thus:

  • A plaintiff makes a payment and files the action to make the claim
  • Both parties can attempt to reach an agreement before trial
  • The court sets a date for trial where both parties make their case directly to a judge
  • After all due process, the judge then gives the judgment

In Iowa, the monetary limit for small claims is $6,500 (maximum). These cases are filed and heard in the small claims division of the district courts. How the small claims cases in Iowa are handled are detailed in the Iowa judicial branch’s small claims webpage.

Class action lawsuits can be termed small claims filed by a group of individuals who share the same offender. It is created to aid all persons who have been negatively affected by a particular company or product. Class action cases are filed in any of the state or federal courts in the state. Every person has the right to begin a class action lawsuit as long as they meet the fundamental requirements. These lawsuits are complex, usually involving complicated questions regarding differing laws & codes, jurisdiction, and varying legal issues.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Iowa?

Class action lawsuits are a form of claim allowing one or numerous individuals (class representatives) to sue a company on behalf of a group of persons (the class members). This action normally concerns individual claims, too small for the single plaintiff to file on its own. Therefore it permits the combination of several small claims into one petition led by the class representative. Below are examples of Iowa class action lawsuits:

  • Consumer fraud and deception
  • Constitutional claims
  • Insurance bad faith practices
  • Hidden fees
  • Construction law
  • Predatory lending
  • Defective or harmful products
  • Wage & hour law

Every individual certified to be a part of the class gets a share in the legal damages earned after winning the case. Class action lawsuits are created under American federal law. The suits are file-able in any federal courts in the state. Rule 23 (Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) is the code that supports the class action court proceedings.

How do I File a Claim in an Iowa Small Claims Court?

As stated in Chapter 631 of the Iowa Code (small claims), a small claims case begins after a plaintiff files a suit. The litigants resident in Iowa can electronically file their lawsuit in the original notice form available on the state’s judicial branch website. All necessary documents needed to complete the lawsuit filing process are available on that portal at no cost. The petitioner will, however, be required to pay $95 as the filing cost. Additional charges may also apply if the litigant wants to directly serve the individuals on the defense party.

After paying all necessary filing & associate fees and filing the original notice, the case has started. All litigants are advised to file their lawsuits electronically. However, interested persons can obtain permission to file in hard-copy form from the appropriate court.

Once the petitioner has filed the small claims suit, the court will send a notification (a summons) to the defense party ordering the involved persons to appear in a particular court. The litigant will be required to state the following details regarding the accused:

  • The real name
  • The resident of the accused
  • The telephone number(s) of the defendant or some contact details

Once all this is done, the court will select a date for trial when both parties will present their case before the court. The time limit of a lawsuit in Iowa varies and is stated in Chapter 614 (limitation of action). The time differences are based on the type of case concerned. For instance, lawsuits regarding injury damages must be executed within 2 years. However, some other factors and laws may affect the time limits under the statute of limitation code.

Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?

No, it’s not a requirement that an individual who intends to file a small claim suit should seek the services of a small claims lawyer. However, the litigant may decide to employ an attorney to increase the winning chances. Among the major advantages of small claims courts, is the inexpensiveness and informality that it allows. Thus appearing in court with an attorney managing the case defeats the fundamental purpose of the institution.

How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Iowa?

The following is how class action suits are generally carried out in the state:

  • The representative/ lawyer will determine if the case qualifies for a class action: A credible lawyer will evaluate all facts presented by the plaintiffs before deciding if a class action lawsuit is file-able. The attorney will check (1) how many others suffered the same injury, (2) if the same allegations have been filed before, etc. 
  • Filing the lawsuit: If the attorney deems the case fit for filing, then a complaint will be drafted and filed in the appropriate court. This will describe all the facts and state the damages being required. Also, the complaint will comprise a proposed list of “class members.” The class list could be defined on a state-wide or nationwide basis.
  • Certification of the class: A class action case is not officially a “class action lawsuit” until the court handling the case approves it. The process of approving a class action case is what is termed as the certification of the class. An uncertified lawsuit of this sort is usually termed a “putative class action.” 
  • Discovery: This is the investigation phase where the lawyers involved are entitled to request documents from the accused party. The documents obtained during the discovery can be used by the attorneys representing the class in court. During discovery, the class action lawyers can conduct depositions pertaining to the case as well.

When the case progresses past these stages, and the offense party gets the defendant to settle, all of the class members will be notified of it. Then the class members and representatives will share the damages paid by the offender.

Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?

Generally, a class action lawsuit is better than an individual small claims suit, and one major reason is that it is cheaper. Filing a lawsuit is expensive, and litigants only go through a stressful and costly process when there is the possibility of substantial damage. Also, class action cases are generally more successful when compared to single party suits. The judicial system also benefits from class-action lawsuits as a case that could have been filed by numerous individuals will then be brought under one petition.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Iowa?

In Iowa, the small claims court has jurisdiction over civil matters with damages not higher than $6,500. Below are some common civil cases brought before the small claims courts in Iowa;

  • Claims concerning property damages
  • Slander & libel issues
  • Landlord and tenant disputes
  • Personal injury issues, i.e., animal bites
  • Claims regarding false arrests
  • Issues regarding poor workmanship
  • Breach of contract
  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!