Can I sue in small claims court in Sierra County?
The general rule is the case or claim must be filed in the County where the defendant 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 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. The guardian ad litem acts on behalf of the person and makes decisions specifically for that case only.
Sierra County Small Claims Court Locations
Small Claims Court cases are heard in 1 courthouse across the County. The website address for Sierra County Superior Court (which will have more information for small claims court cases) is: www.sierracourt.org. Here are the locations:
The Main Courthouse is located at:100 Courthouse Sq. Downieville, CA 95936
The phone number is: 530-289-3698
Statute of Limitations in Small Claims Court Cases
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 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 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 is often difficult to find out when it is too late to file. It is better to file sooner, rather than later, and let the judge decide.
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 are designed to be less complex and more less formal when compared to general civil cases. The person who files the lawsuit or action is called 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. Each party is allowed to consult with an attorney before the hearing to answer questions and discuss the case.
Can I have an attorney represent me?
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.
How long do I have to wait for my case to 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). Usually, the hearing for your small claims court case should be between twenty and seventy days after the case was filed. Because of state cuts to the Sierra County Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.
Small Claims Court Mediation
Sierra 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 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).
What types of cases are filed in Sierra County Small Claims Court?
A wide variety 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 Sierra County
The plaintiff must pay a filing fee when the claim is filed. 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
Once a party has filed twelve cases within twelve months, each consecutive case has a $100 filing fee.
Limits on Sierra 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 party can only file two actions that are more than $2,500 in a year. A person can file as many claims asking for $2,500 or less.
Small Claims Court Hearing in Sierra County
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. 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. Being prepared for the hearing is half the battle. 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.