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 Butte County are the same for any county in California. These rules are meant to be simpler than a regular civil case so that a non-lawyer can understand and represent himself or herself in court. The person or business that files the action is the plaintiff. The party who is being sued is known as the defendant. In small claims court cases in California, neither party is allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing. Each party is allowed to consult with an attorney before the hearing to answer questions and discuss the case.
Filing Fee for Small Claims Court cases in Butte County
The filing fee is required to be paid by the plaintiff when the claim is filed with the court. The amount of the filing fee is relative to the amount the plaintiff is seeking. If you filed twelve or less claims over the past twelve months, the filing fee is:
- $0 to $1,500 – $30
- $1,500 to $5,000 – $50
- $5,000 to $10,000 – $75
If a party has filed twelve or more small claims court actions over the last twelve months, the filing fee is $100.
Butte County Small Claims Court Hearing
Cases in Butte County are often scheduled with a number of other small claims court cases. Often, the court’s schedule is very busy, and the court will expect you to present your argument in just a few minutes. (It is usually smart to pay attention to the cases heard before yours to see which issues and questions the judge asks the parties). It is essential to spend time preparing your case in advance. Bring any and all documents that support your case including: receipts, photos, contracts, and any other relevant documents. Make sure you bring any witnesses you need to the hearing if they are necessary to prove your case. Ensuring that you are prepared for your case goes along way to securing a successful outcome. After the judge has heard both sides, the judge may either make a decision at the hearing or later and send notice of the ruling to the parties by mail.
Can I file my claim in Butte County?
Usually, a claim must be filed in the County where the person or business being sued resides. Exceptions to this include automobile accidents (which can be filed where the accident happened). 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 a plaintiff is under eighteen or mentally incompetent, a judge will appoint someone (normally a relative) as a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem acts on behalf of the person and makes decisions specifically for that case only.
What types of cases are filed in Butte County Small Claims Court?
A wide variety of cases can be filed in small claims court. Common cases are: car accidents, damage to property, some landlord tenant disputes, and contractor disputes.
Limits on Butte County 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.
Butte County Small Claims Court Locations
Butte County Small Claims Court cases are heard in 2 courthouses across Butte County. The website for Butte County Superior court is: www.buttecourt.ca.gov. Here are the following locations where small claims cases are heard:
Butte County Courthouse
The Butte County Courthouse is located at:One Court St. Oroville, CA 95965
The phone number is: 530-532-7002
The Chico Courthouse is located at:655 Oleander Ave. Chico, CA 95926
The phone number is: 530-532-7002
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. However, you are able to talk to an attorney before or after the small claims court trial to answer questions and discuss strategy.
When will my case be heard?
Each Superior Court is responsible for one County. The amount of time between when the claim is filed and heard varies between each County (and even within each County). Generally, the small claims court trial should be between twenty and seventy days after the case is filed. But, because of state budget cuts to the court’s budget, these hearings are usually being set well past the seventy day mark (which should give you plenty of time to prepare for the trial).
Statute of Limitations in Small Claims Court Cases
All cases must be filed before a certain deadline called the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations is a legal term for the deadline to file a case. The time limit is different depending on the type of the case. If the plaintiff suffered personal injury, the statute is two years from the injury (or when you learned of the injury). (A minor has two years from his or her eighteenth birthday). If the case involves an oral contract which was broken or breached, you have two years from the date of the breach to file your action. If there is a written contract, the plaintiff has three years to file the case from the date the defendant breached the contract. 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 can be very difficult to find out when the statute of limitations begins to run. It is far better to file the case and let the judge decide, rather than filing too late and having it dismissed.
What is small claims court mediation?
Your Butte County 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 can occur before the trial or even on the same day as your trial. Mediation may work for your case, but at the very least, it will give you the chance to explain your case to someone (before you explain it to the judge).