How can I prepare for my 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 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. Bring other witnesses who were present during relevant times and can provide testimony about the incident. Ensuring that you are prepared for your case goes along way to securing a successful outcome. After hearing both sides, the judge may make a decision at the hearing or notify the parties of the ruling by mail, several days later.
How long do I have to wait for my case to be heard?
Napa County has its own Superior Court. Time between when the case is filed to when the case is heard vary amongst each County (and even within the same 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 Napa County Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.
Can I hire a lawyer?
For California small claims court cases, you are not able to be represented by an attorney at the actual hearing. But, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the hearing to answer questions or discuss strategy.
Which cases are filed in Napa 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 plaintiff can file a case in small claims court if the plaintiff is at least eighteen years old, or an emancipated minor. 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 much does it cost to sue in Napa County Small Claims Court?
The plaintiff must pay a filing fee when the claim is filed. 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 in Napa County
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. 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 small claims court cases in California, neither party is allowed to have a lawyer represent you 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 time do I have to file my case?
All cases must be filed by a certain deadline called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a legal term that means the time someone has to file a claim. The statute of limitations is different depending on the type of 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 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 were the victim of fraud, you have three years from when you first learn of the fraud to file your case. 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.
What types of cases are filed in Napa County Small Claims Court?
A wide variety 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.
Napa County Small Claims Court Locations
In Napa County, small claims court cases are heard in 1 courthouse across the County. The website for Napa County Superior court is: www.napa.courts.ca.gov. Here are the locations:
The Historic Courthouse is located at:825 Brown St. Napa, CA 94559
The phone number is: 707-299-1100
Small Claims Court Mediation
Napa 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 may be offered on the day of your actual court hearing, but before you see the judge. It is nothing to be scared of, just your chance to explain your side of the case to the mediator about what happened.
What is the most a person can sue for in Napa County Small Claims Court?
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. An individual can only file two small claims court cases for more than $2,500.00 in one year. A party can file as many cases in small claims court with an amount of $2,500 or less.