It is the responsibility of the Plaintiff(s) and Defendant(s) to read & understand the information provided in the small claims form packet. The court clerk cannot advise the parties.
Consult the Small Claims Advisor for assistance in completing the Small Claims form or for questions regarding the Small Claims process.
Parties not comfortable with the English language can ask the clerk if the court has a court-approved interpreter available in their native language and how to request one. If a court-approved interpreter is not available, it is the parties’ responsibility to provide their own interpreter and one for each witness called to testify at the court trial. Interpreters must be of adult age and not a party named in the claim.
The Court does not generally provide Interpreters
The Small Claims court has a monetary claim limit for money damages. The maximum amount an individual including “natural persons" and sole proprietorships can claim is $10,000.00; however, there are some exceptions to this limit. Corporations, partnerships, public entities, and other businesses are limited to $5,000.00.
Consult the Small Claims Advisor for more information regarding claim limits.
All claims filed are limited to no more than two that exceed $2,500.00 filed anywhere in the State of California in one calendar year, unless filed by a public entity. There is no limit for the number of Claims filed for $2,500.00 or less in one calendar year; however see the local fee schedule for fees on more than 12 claims filed in one calendar year.
Review the Court’s Fee Schedule for the most current fee information.
Parties may consult an attorney before or after the court trial, but an attorney may not represent a party in court, unless the matter is being heard on appeal (a Trial De Novo).
An individual suing someone or being sued must personally appear in Small Claims Court. Generally, a party may not be represented by anyone else; however, there are some exceptions to the appearance requirement:
Plaintiffs and Defendant business entities:
Jurisdiction is the authority given by law to a court to try cases and rule on legal matters within a particular geographic area and/or over certain types of legal cases. Small Claims actions may involve claims regarding personal injury, property damage, contract disputes, landlord/tenant issues, and claims against governmental agencies.
Note that a Plaintiff with a claim against a governmental agency must first file that claim with the governmental agency (this is called an administrative claim) and that claim must be denied prior to filing a small claim action.
The Small Claims Court has no jurisdiction to make Child Support Orders, hear Workers’ Compensation claims, Unlawful Detainer actions, or Labor Board disputes. Consult the Small Claims Advisor for more information regarding the limits on jurisdiction.
The Statute of Limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. The deadline for filing a California Small Claims action depends on the type of claim.
Consult the Small Claims Advisor for more information regarding statute of limitations.
Consult the Small Claims Advisor for more information regarding venue or if there is a belief the party filing the claim has filed it in the wrong venue.
A party who disagrees with the court’s decision/judgment on the other parties’ claim, may appeal the decision/judgment. Parties may not appeal the decision/judgment on their own claim
If either party appeals, there will be a new trial on all the original claims.
Parties who appeared at the trial and want to appeal must begin the appeal process by filing a form called a Notice of Appeal and paying the required fees within 30 days of the date the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed by the court.
The court will set a new trial date and mail the Notice of Appeal. The Court will schedule the trial and send all parties the Notice of Trial De Novo with the date time and location of the new trial
For more information see HOW TO APPEAL A JUDGMENT.