California

What is the most a person can sue for in California Small Claims Court?

A person cannot sue for more than $10,000 in a case. A corporation (or other corporate entity) cannot sue for more than $5,000. A person can only file two small claims court actions for more than $2,500 in one year. A person can file as many claims asking for $2,500 or less.

How long does it take my case to be heard?

Each Superior Court is responsible for one County. Time between when the case is filed to when the case is heard vary amongst each County (and even within the same County). Generally, you will go to court between twenty and seventy days after the claim is filed. Because of state cuts to the California Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.

Small Claims Court Hearing in California

Cases in California are often scheduled with a number of other small claims court cases. Because the court’s schedule is very busy (and has become more busy based on state cuts to the court’s budget), the court may expect you to present your entire case in a few minutes. It is very important to spend time preparing for your case ahead of time. Bring any and all documents that support your case including: receipts, photos, contracts, and any other relevant documents. Bring other witnesses who were present during relevant times and can provide testimony about the incident. Being prepared for the hearing is half the battle. After hearing both sides, the judge may make a decision at the hearing or notify the parties of the ruling by mail, several days later.

What is small claims court mediation?

Your California Small Claims Court cases may be sent to mediation before it is heard at the actual trial or hearing. Mediation is a confidential, non-binding dispute resolution program where an impartial mediator attempts to bring both parties to an outcome that each side agrees to. Mediation may be offered on the day of your actual court hearing, but before you see the judge. It is nothing to be scared of, just your chance to explain your side of the case to the mediator about what happened.

California Small Claims Court Locations

Small Claims court cases in California are heard in each of California’s 58 Counties. Generally, a case should be filed in the County where the Defendant resides or where the incident giving rise to the case occurred.

What is Small Claims Court?

Small claims court is a special court where disputes between parties are handled quickly and inexpensively. The rules for small claims court cases in California are the same for any county in California. The rules for small claims court are simple and informal compared to the rules of regular civil cases. The person who files the lawsuit or action is called the plaintiff. The person or persons who is being sued is called the defendant. In small claims court cases in California, neither party is allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing. However, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the small claims court hearing.

How much does it cost to sue in California Small Claims Court?

A filing fee is required and is set relative to the amount of money you are requesting for your claim. If you filed twelve or less claims over the past twelve months, the filing fee is:

  • $0 to $1,500 – $30
  • $1,500.01 to $5,000.00 – $50
  • $5,000.01 to $10,000.00 – $75

If you filed twelve or more small claims court actions in the last twelve months, the filing fee is a constant $100.00.

What types of cases are filed in California Small Claims Court?

All types of cases can be filed in small claims court. The most common types are automobile accidents, property damage, rent deposit disputes, homeowners association disputes, and contractor disputes.

Small Claims Court Statute of Limitations

All claims must be filed before the statute of limitations has run. The statute of limitations is a legal term that means the time someone has to file a claim. The time limit is different depending on the type of the case. If you were hurt, you have two years from the date of the injury or the date the injury is discovered to file your claim. (A minor has two years from his or her eighteenth birthday). If an oral contract (or oral agreement) was broken, you have two years after the agreement was broken to file your case. If a written contract was broken, you have three years from when the agreement was broken. If you lost money because you were tricked or lied to, you have three years from when you learn of the deceit to file your case. It is often difficult to find out when it is too late to file. It is better to file sooner, rather than later, and let the judge decide.

Can I sue in small claims court in California?

The general rule is the case or claim must be filed in the County where the defendant resides. There are some exceptions to this rule (for example, an auto accident can be filed in the County where the accident occurred). A person can file an action in small claims court if that person is at least 18 years old or a child who has been emancipated. If you are under 18 or not mentally competent, the judge must appoint a guardian at litem to represent you in small claims court. A guardian ad litem is an adult appointed by the court to represent that person only for that case.

Can I hire an attorney?

For California small claims court cases, you are not able to be represented by an attorney at the actual hearing. But, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the hearing to answer questions or discuss strategy.

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