Can I sue in small claims court in Imperial County?
Normally, a case must be filed in the County where the Defendant resides (lives for a person or business has its principle place of business). Exceptions to this include automobile accidents (which can be filed where the accident happened). A plaintiff can file a case in small claims court if the plaintiff is at least eighteen years old, or an emancipated minor. If you are under 18 or not mentally competent, the judge must appoint a guardian at litem to represent you in small claims court. This person only acts on their behalf with respect to that particular small claims court case.
Imperial County Small Claims Court Locations
Small Claims Court cases are heard in 4 courthouses across the County. The website address for Imperial County Superior Court is: www.imperial.courts.ca.gov. Here are the locations:
The Main Courthouse is located at:939 W. Main St., Courthouse El Centro, CA 92243-2842
The phone number is: 760-482-2200
The Brawley Court is located at:220 Main St. Brawley, CA 92227-2414
The phone number is: 760-482-2200
Valley Plaza Department
The Valley Plaza Department is located at:1625 W. Main St. Brawley, CA 92227-2414
The phone number is: 760-336-3550
The Winterhaven Department is located at:1625 W. Main St. El Centro, CA 92243
The phone number is: 760-336-3500
How long does it take my case to be heard?
Each County has its own Superior Court. The length of time between when the case is filed and when the hearing is varies for each county in California (and even within each county). Usually, the hearing for your small claims court case should be between twenty and seventy days after the case was 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).
Small Claims Court Hearing in Imperial County
Cases in Imperial County 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 important to prepare for your case beforehand. This means organizing and bringing all paperwork and other documents that support your side (receipts, contracts, pictures, etc.). You should also bring other witnesses who can testify about your case. Making sure you are prepared for the hearing goes along way toward a successful outcome. After each side has had the opportunity to present its side, the court will make a decision. The court will either make its ruling immediately, or notify both sides of its decision through the mail (make sure your address with the court is correct).
Imperial County Small Claims Court Limits
A person cannot sue for more than $10,000 in a case. A business can only sue for $5,000 or less in small claims court. An individual can only file two small claims court cases for more than $2,500.00 in one year. A party can file as many cases in small claims court with an amount of $2,500 or less.
What is Small Claims Court?
Small Claims Court is a limited court designed to handle disputes and disagreements both quickly and inexpensively (at least compared to a general civil case). Each County in California follows the same rules and procedures for small claims court cases. The rules for small claims court are simple and informal compared to the rules of regular civil cases. The party who files the action or claim is known as the plaintiff. The Defendant is the person or business that is being sued. In small claims court cases in California, neither party is allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing. But, each party can talk to and ask questions to an attorney before or after the hearing if they wish.
How much time do I have to file my case?
All cases must be filed by a certain deadline called the statute of limitations. This is a legal term which simply means the deadline for which you must file your 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 child has two years from the date of 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 there is a written contract, the plaintiff has three years to file the case from the date the defendant breached the contract. If the defendant committed fraud, the plaintiff has three years from when the plaintiff first learned of the fraud. It can be very difficult to determine when the statute of limitations begins to run (even for veteran attorneys). It is better to file sooner, rather than later, and let the judge decide.
What types of cases are filed in Imperial County Small Claims Court?
Many different 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.
Filing Fee for Small Claims Court cases in Imperial 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 a party has filed twelve or less claims over the past twelve months, the fee is:
- $0 to $1,500 – $30
- $1,500 to $5,000 – $50
- $5,000 to $10,000 – $75
If you filed twelve or more small claims court actions in the last twelve months, the filing fee is a constant $100.00.
Can I hire an attorney?
No. A party cannot be represented by anyone else (including an attorney). But, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the hearing to answer questions or discuss strategy.
What is Mediation for Small Claims Court?
Your Imperial 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).