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It is the responsibility of the litigants to read & understand the information provided in the small claims packet. It is NOT the clerk’s responsibility if the information has not been read.

If you are not comfortable with the English language, it is the responsibility of the litigants to provide their own interpreter who can interpret for them in court. Interpreters must be adults not party to the case. The Court does not provide interpreters.
Monetary Limits for Small Claims Court

The Small Claims court has a monetary limit, called a jurisdictional limit, on the amount of money damages that can be claimed. The most "a natural person" can ask for is $10,000; however, you are limited to filing no more than two claims anywhere in the State of California for over $2,500 in one calendar year. You may file an unlimited amount of claims for $2,500 or less.
Filing Fee

Check the Court’s Fee Schedule for the most current fees.

Except for claims filed by a public entity, no person may file more than 2 Small Claims actions in which the amount demanded exceeds $2,500.00 anywhere in the State in a calendar year.
Attorneys

You may consult an attorney before or after your hearing, but an attorney may not represent you in court.
Who Must Appear in Court

Generally, if you are suing someone or being sued, you must appear in Small Claims Court and represent yourself. You may not be represented by anyone else. There are some exceptions.

  • In cases where a claim can be proved or disputed by evidence of a business record and there is no other issue, a regular employee, who is qualified to testify about the business record may appear for the Plaintiff or Defendant.
  • If the Defendant is the owner of real property in California and the owner lives out of state, the owner can be represented in court by one other person, provided they are not an attorney, or they can submit written declarations instead of appearing in person.
  • A member of the armed forces, on active duty and assigned outside the state after his or her claim arose, need not appear if the assignment is for more than six months.
  • If the business is a sole proprietorship the owner must appear in court. If a business is a partnership, one of the partners must appear.
  • If the business is a corporation, the person appearing in court must be an employee, officer or director. The person cannot be employed, appointed or elected just to represent the corporation in court. He or she must have other duties as well.
Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is the type of case that can be filed in the Small Claims Court. Some typical small claims cases may involve, but are not limited to, automobile accidents, property damage, landlord/tenant disputes and the collection of personal debts.

The Small Claims Court has no jurisdiction to enforce child support; workers’ Compensation claims; to hear claims for equitable relief in the absence of a claim for money; to hear claims against defendant who have not been served within the state (CCP 116.340(d)); to hear a third claim by one plaintiff within a calendar year for more than $2500, with the exception of a public entity; to issue a prejudgment attachment (CCP 116.140(b)); to hear unlawful detainer actions; to hear actions without proof of administrative remedies against public entities and the Department of Corrections.
Statute of Limitations

Consult the Small Claims Advisor Services for information regarding statue of limitations.
Venue

Your case must be filed in the proper court or Venue. The proper place to file your case is where the Defendant, that is the person you are suing, lives or does business.

  • Signed contract: You can file where the contract was signed or where the Defendant lived or did business at the time the contract was signed or agreed to, or where the contract was to be performed.
  • If the Defendant is a corporation: You can sue where the contract was breached. In cases involving injury or property damage, file where the injury or damage occurred or where the defendant or defendants live.
  • If there is no signed contract, and you are suing because the Defendant owes you money for goods, services, loans, or extensions of credit for personal, family or household use: You can file your case in the judicial district in which the defendant lived when the agreement or oral contract was entered into or in which the defendant now lives.
  • Money owed on a retail installment account, a sales contract, or a motor vehicle finance sale: You can sue in one of the following judicial districts; where the buyer lives; where the buyer lived when the contract was entered into; where the buyer signed the contract; where the goods or vehicle are permanently kept.
If you believe that you are being sued in the wrong venue, request a dismissal. Be sure to write to the court address indicated on the Plaintiff’s Claims well in advance of the trial date and state the grounds for the dismissal. You can also appear on the trial date and request a dismissal. If the court agrees with you, the case will be dismissed unless all defendants are present and agree to have the trial.
Attorneys

You may consult an attorney, however, an attorney may not represent you in court.
Appeals

If you disagree with the court’s decision, you may appeal the decision only on the other party’s claim. You may not appeal the decision on your own claim. However, if any party appeals, there will be a new trial on all the claims. If you appeared at the trial, you must begin your appeal by filing a form called a Notice of Appeal and pay the required fees within 30 days after the date the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed or handed to you at the time of the Small Claims hearing. You will have a new trial and you must present your evidence again. You may be represented by a lawyer. For more information see HOW TO APPEAL A JUDGMENT.

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