How long do I have to wait for my case to be heard?
Lake 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). 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 Lake County Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.
Can I sue in small claims court in Lake 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 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 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.
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 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 case involves an oral contract which was broken or breached, you have two years from the date of the breach to file your action. 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 can be very difficult to determine when the statute of limitations begins to run (even for veteran attorneys). It is better to file your case sooner, and let the judge decide, rather than later and lose having your case heard.
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. But, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the hearing to answer questions or discuss strategy.
Small Claims Court Hearing in Lake 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). Because the court’s schedule is very busy (and has become more busy based on state cuts to the court’s budget), the court may expect you to present your entire case in a few minutes. It is important to prepare for your case beforehand. Bring any and all documents that support your case including: receipts, photos, contracts, and any other relevant documents. 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.
Lake County 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 Lake County 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 Defendant is the person or business that is being sued. In California small claims court cases, neither party can hire an attorney to represent them at the hearing. But, each party can talk to and ask questions to an attorney before or after the hearing if they wish.
How much does it cost to sue in Lake County Small Claims Court?
The plaintiff must pay a filing fee when the claim is filed. 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
If you filed twelve or more small claims court actions in the last twelve months, the filing fee is a constant $100.00.
What is Mediation for Small Claims Court?
Lake 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 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).
Lake County Small Claims Court Limits
The most a person can sue for in small claims court is $10,000. A corporation (or other corporate entity) cannot sue for more than $5,000. A party can only file two actions that are more than $2,500 in a year. A person or corporation can file as many cases seeking $2,500.00 or less.
Lake County Small Claims Court Locations
In Lake County, small claims court cases are heard in 2 courthouses across the County. The website address for Lake County Superior Court is: www.lake.courts.ca.gov. Here are the locations:
The Main Courthouse is located at:255 N. Forbes St. Lakeport, CA 95453-4759
The phone number is: 707-263-2374
The Clearlake Division is located at:7000 A South Center Dr. Clearlake, CA 95422-670
The phone number is: 707-263-2374
What types of cases are filed in Lake County Small Claims Court?
Many different 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.