What is Small Claims Court?
Small Claims Court is a special court whose purpose is to handle cases an efficient, inexpensive fashion. The procedures and rules of evidence for small claims court cases in Inyo 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 or business that files the action is 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. But, each party can talk to and ask questions to an attorney before or after the hearing if they wish.
Filing Fee for Small Claims Court cases in Inyo County
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 to $5,000 – $50
- $5,000 to $10,000 – $75
Once a party has filed twelve cases within twelve months, each consecutive case has a $100 filing fee.
Can I hire a lawyer?
A party is not able to be represented by anyone else in small claims court, including an attorney or lawyer. However, you are able to talk to an attorney before or after the small claims court trial to answer questions and discuss strategy.
Can I file my claim in Inyo County?
Usually, a claim must be filed in the County where the person or business being sued resides. There are a number of exceptions to this, like in an automobile accident which can also be filed in the County where the traffic collision happened. A party may file the claim in small claims court if that party is at least eighteen years old. A party can file as someone less than eighteen if he or she 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. This person only acts on their behalf with respect to that particular small claims court case.
What is Mediation for Small Claims Court?
Inyo County Superior Court may offer mediation for your claim before the actual trial. Mediation is a procedure where each side discusses the case with a third party (called the mediator), and the mediator tries to reach an agreement that both sides agree to. Mediation can occur before the trial or even on the same day as your trial. Mediation is nothing to be scared of, but rather another chance for you to explain your side of the case (which will better prepare you for the actual hearing in front of the judge).
Types of Inyo County Small Claims Court Cases
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.
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). Generally, you will go to court between twenty and seventy days after the claim is filed. Because of state cuts to the Inyo County Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.
Inyo County Small Claims Court Locations
In Inyo County, small claims court cases are heard in 2 courthouses across the County. The website for Inyo County Superior court is: www.inyocourt.ca.gov. Here are the following locations where Small Claims Court cases are heard in Inyo County:
The Main Courthouse is located at:168 Edwards St., P.O. Box Drawer U Independence, CA 93526
The phone number is: 760-872-3038
The Bishop is located at:301 W. Line St. Bishop, CA 93514-3440
The phone number is: 760-872-3038
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 the case involves personal injury to you, the case must be filed within two years of the injury or two years of when you first learned of the injury. (A minor has two years from his or her eighteenth birthday). If the defendant broke an oral contract, the plaintiff must file the case within two years of the breach. 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.
Limits on Inyo 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. An individual can only file two small claims court cases for more than $2,500.00 in one year. A person or corporation can file as many cases seeking $2,500.00 or less.
Inyo County Small Claims Court Hearing
Small Claims Court cases are often scheduled where a number of cases will be heard in the same department at the same time (one at a time). The court’s schedule is busy and because of this scheduling, you will only have a few minutes to present your case. (You can pay attention to the cases that are heard before you). It is essential to spend time preparing your case in advance. You should bring all the paperwork that supports your claim (or defense) including receipts, contracts, photographs, invoices, and any other paperwork. 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).