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Obtaining A Small Claims Default Judgment

Find out what happens if the person you are suing fails to show up at the small claims hearing or fails to defend himself in your case, including how to ask the court for a money judgment against them.


A “default judgment” is a money judgment that is entered against someone who fails to defend himself in a court case brought against him.

In a small claims case, the court typically enters a default judgment against a defendant who misses the small claims hearing. The plaintiff must appear at the hearing and prove to the judge that the defendant was properly served with the Small Claims Complaint. If the judge is satisfied, the court can issue a money judgment against the defendant for the amount of plaintiff’s claim, plus court costs. The judge might require that plaintiff "prove up" the judgment, meaning the plaintiff will have to show proof that he should get a judgment in the amount he has requested. Once a judgment is entered, plaintiff can then try to collect that judgment from the defendant by, for example, garnishing defendant’s wages or bank accounts.

In the justice courts for Henderson and North Las Vegas, the court can also enter a default judgment against a small claims defendant who fails to attend a mandatory mediation. 

To download a flowchart that shows how a small claims case moves through the court – and situations where a default judgment might be entered – click on one of the file names below:
Flowchart – Overview of the Small Claims Process  
Flowchart - Overview of Las Vegas Small Claims Process  

Q&A – Default Judgments

Do I need to file papers with the court to get a default judgment?

You do not need to file special papers to ask the court for a default judgment. Simply show up at your small claims mediation or hearing. If the defendant does not attend, and assuming you have filed proof that the defendant was properly served with your complaint, the court can enter a default judgment in your favor for the amount of money you sued for in your complaint or the amount of money you have proved up, plus your court costs. 

TIP! When you go to your small claims hearing, be sure to check in with the court clerk so the clerk knows you’re there. When your case is called, go to the front of the courtroom, even if the other side hasn’t shown up. Also be sure to get to your hearing early! Get there at least a half hour early to make sure you are checked in and ready. If your case is called and you’re not there, it could be dismissed regardless of whether the other side shows up.

If your case is in the Las Vegas Justice Court, you will need certain papers to get a default judgment. It is a good idea to file your Memorandum of Costs before your trial date so that if the defendant does not appear, the judge can see how much you have spent in costs and award them to you.

A form is available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center, or you can download it by clicking the link underneath the form’s title below:


What if I sued more than one defendant?

If some defendants appear at trial or mediation and some do not, you can ask for a default against the defendants who do not appear. Your case against the other appearing defendants will go forward as usual. 

What can the defendant do if I get a default judgment?

When the defendant learns that a default judgment has been entered against her, she can file a motion asking the court to “set aside” (cancel or revoke) the judgment. For more information, click to read Setting Aside a Small Claims Default Judgment.