Can I file my claim in Kern County?
Usually, a claim must be filed in the County where the person or business being sued 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 someone is under eighteen or not mentally competent, the judge can appoint a person (usually a relative) as a guardian ad litem to act on that person’s behalf throughout the case. A guardian ad litem is an adult appointed by the court to represent that person only for that case.
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 Kern County 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 party who files the action or claim is known as the plaintiff. The Defendant is the person or business that is being sued. For small claims court cases in California, neither the plaintiff or the defendant is allowed to hire an attorney to represent them at the hearing. Each party is allowed to consult with an attorney before the hearing to answer questions and discuss the case.
When will my case be heard?
Each Superior Court is responsible for one County. 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, the small claims court trial should be between twenty and seventy days after the case is filed. However, because of state cuts to the court’s budget, most hearings are now being set well past the seventy day mark.
What types of cases are filed in Kern County Small Claims Court?
Many different types of cases can be filed in small claims court. Some common types of cases are automobile accidents, property damage incidents, homeowners association disputes, landlord tenant disputes (possible over security deposits), and contractor disputes.
Can I hire a lawyer?
No. A party cannot be represented by anyone else (including an attorney). A party can discuss the case with an attorney before or after the the case to answer questions and help a party prepare for the hearing.
Kern 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). 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. 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. Being prepared for the hearing is half the battle. 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).
Kern County Small Claims Court Limits
The most a person can sue for in small claims court is $10,000. A business can only sue for $5,000 or less in small claims court. A party can only file two actions that are more than $2,500 in a year. A party can file as many cases in small claims court with an amount of $2,500 or less.
Kern County Small Claims Court Filing Fee
A filing fee is required and is set relative to the amount of money you are requesting for your claim. 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 a party has filed twelve or more small claims court actions over the last twelve months, the filing fee is $100.
Small Claims Court Mediation
You may be asked to have your mediated before the trial. 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).
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 varies 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 to file a case). If the defendant broke an oral contract, the plaintiff must file the case within two years of the breach. If the contract was written, you have three years from the date the contract was breached or broken to file the case. 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 find out when the statute of limitations begins to run. It is better to file sooner, rather than later, and let the judge decide.
Kern County Small Claims Court Locations
Small Claims Court cases are heard in 7 courthouses across the County. The website address for Kern County Superior Court (which will have more information for small claims court cases) is: www.kerncourts.ca.gov. Here are the following locations where Small Claims Court cases are heard in Kern County:
Superior Courts Building
The Superior Courts Building is located at:
The phone number is: 661-868-5393
The Ridgecrest Branch is located at:132 E. Coso St. Ridgecrest, CA 93555
The phone number is: 661-868-5393
The Mojave Branch is located at:1773 Hwy 58 Ridgecrest, CA 93555
The phone number is: 760-384-5900
The Delano-McFarland Branch is located at:1773 Hwy 58 Mojave, CA 93501
The phone number is: 661-824-7100
The Delano-McFarland Branch is located at:1122 Jefferson St. Delano, CA 93215-2241
The phone number is: 661-720-5800
The Shafter-Wasco Branch is located at:325 Central Valley Hwy. Shafter, CA 93263-1726
The phone number is: 661-720-5800
The Maricopa-Taft Branch is located at:311 N. Lincoln St. Shafter, CA 93263-1726
The phone number is: 661-746-7500