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.
Small Claims Court Statute of Limitations
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 varies 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 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 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 is often difficult to find out when it is too late to file. It is far better to file the case and let the judge decide, rather than filing too late and having it dismissed.
Limits on Kings County Small Claims Court
The most a person can sue for in small claims court is $10,000. A corporation (or other entity that is not a natural person), cannot sue in small claims court for more than $5,000.00. A person can only file two small claims court actions for more than $2,500 in one year. A person or corporation can file as many cases seeking $2,500.00 or less.
Kings County Small Claims Court Locations
In Kings County, small claims court cases are heard in 1 courthouse across the County. The website address for Kings County Superior Court is: www.kings.courts.ca.gov. Here are the locations:
The Hanford Courthouse is located at:1426 South Dr. Hanford, CA 93230-5597
The phone number is: 559-582-1010 ext. 3086
Kings 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 important to prepare for your case beforehand. You should bring all the paperwork that supports your claim (or defense) including receipts, contracts, photographs, invoices, and any other paperwork. Make sure you bring any witnesses you need to the hearing if they are necessary to prove your case. Making sure you are prepared for the hearing goes along way toward 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.
Kings 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 plaintiff has filed twelve or less claims over the past twelve months, the filing fees are:
- $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 in Kings County
Small claims court is a special court where disputes between parties are handled quickly and inexpensively. The procedures and rules of evidence for small claims court cases in Kings 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 who files the lawsuit or action is called 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.
What types of cases are filed in Kings 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.
Small Claims Court Mediation
Your Kings 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 may be offered before your trial or the very same day of the 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).
How long do I have to wait for my case to 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, you will go to court between twenty and seventy days after the claim is filed. However, because of state cuts to the court’s budget, most hearings are now being set well past the seventy day mark.
Can I sue in small claims court in Kings County?
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 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. The guardian ad litem acts on behalf of the person and makes decisions specifically for that case only.