Filing a California Small Claims Action
Small Claims court is a part of the California court system where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively. The most common types of Small Claims matters involve car accidents, property damage, landlord/tenant rent deposit disputes, and collection of money owed.
- Small Claims limitations: In order to file a lawsuit in the Small Claims court, an individual cannot sue for more than $7,500. Corporations and other entities (government entities, for example) cannot ask for more than $5,000. You can file as many claims as you want for up to $2,500 each, but you can only file 2 claims in the Small Claims court in a calendar year that ask for more than $2,500. Other rules apply to cases involving a guarantor. A “guarantor” is a person who promises to be responsible for what another person owes. You can only sue a guarantor for up to $4,000 ($2,500 if they don’t charge for the guarantee). If you are an individual filing against the Registrar of the Contractors’ State License Board you can sue a guarantor for up to $7,500. Lawyers are not allowed to represent anyone in the Small Claims court.
- Small Claims trial: The trial of a Small Claims matter is usually scheduled between 20 to 70 days after the claim was filed. At the trial, a judge will listen to both sides and make a decision. At that time, both parties should be fully prepared to present their side of the case and be ready to present any and all witnesses, testimony and documentation to the court. Neither party can have attorney representation at the trial, and each party must be able to present their case to the court on their own.
- In Small Claims, only the defendant can appeal the judge’s decision. The plaintiff (person filing the lawsuit) cannot appeal the decision.
Cons of Filing a California Small Claims
- Plaintiff cannot appeal decision
- Must be able to clearly explain your side of the case to the court on your own
- Limitations on claim amount
Pros of Filing a California Small Claims
- Informal proceeding with no strict rules of evidence to follow.
- Lawyer not needed (or allowed)
- Case resolved quickly