Small Claims Court Mediation
Madera County Superior Court may offer mediation for your claim before the actual 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).
Types of Madera County Small Claims Court Cases
All types of cases can be filed in small claims court. Common cases are: car accidents, damage to property, some landlord tenant disputes, and contractor disputes.
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 Madera 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 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. However, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the small claims court hearing.
Can I file my claim in Madera County?
The general rule is the case or claim must be filed in the County where the defendant 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 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.
How can I prepare for my Small Claims Court Hearing?
Your case will probably be on the same calendar and heard at the same time as a number of other small claims court cases. 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. Bring other witnesses who were present during relevant times and can provide testimony about the incident. 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.
When will my case be heard?
Each County has its own Superior Court. 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).
Filing Fee for Small Claims Court cases in Madera County
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 you filed twelve or more small claims court actions in the last twelve months, the filing fee is a constant $100.00.
Madera County Small Claims Court Locations
Madera County Small Claims Court cases are heard in 1 courthouse across Madera County. The website for Madera County Superior court is: www.madera.courts.ca.gov. Here are the locations:
The Main Courthouse is located at:209 W. Yosemite Ave. Madera, CA 93637-3596
The phone number is: 559-675-7944
Can I hire an attorney?
A party is not able to be represented by anyone else in small claims court, including an attorney or lawyer. 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.
What is the most a person can sue for in Madera 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 party can file as many cases in small claims court with an amount of $2,500 or less.
How much time do I have to file my case?
All cases must be filed by 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 the plaintiff suffered personal injury, the statute is two years from the injury (or when you learned of the injury). (A child has two years from the date of his or her eighteenth birthday to file a case). If an oral contract (or oral agreement) was broken, you have two years after the agreement was broken to file your case. If a written contract was broken, you have three years from when the agreement was broken. 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 is often difficult to find out when it is too late to file. It is better to file your case sooner, and let the judge decide, rather than later and lose having your case heard.