Do you need help preparing legal documents to file a lawsuit in California small claims court? At San Diego Esquire, we can help you prepare for your upcoming hearing with the court. California small claims courts hear matters in controversy with a claim amount up to $10,000. Contact us today to learn more about how the small claims court process works. Sign up to get started.
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Who Can File a Claim?
Individuals and businesses can file a claim in small claims court. An individual, which includes a sole proprietorship, may file a claim up to $10,000. If a business is a corporation, partnership, or anything other than a sole proprietorship, the maximum claim amount is $5,000. A sole proprietor business owner can represent his/her business in court. A corporation or other business entity aside from a sole proprietorship must be represented by an employee or officer. Attorneys are not allowed to represent parties in small claims court.
You can file a small claims action at your local court. You can request an interpreter to be present at your trial. The Superior Court of California provides a Small Claims Legal Advisor at no cost. The advisor will tell you the forms you need to complete to file your case and how to serve the defendant. Most small claims advisors are available by telephone only. Contact San Diego Esquire to speak promptly with an attorney and learn what forms are needed to file your small claims action.
Complete the Right Court Forms
Check with your local court to find out what local forms you need to use to file your small claims case. Common Judicial Council forms used to file a small claims case include the following:
- Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to go to Small Claims Court SC-100
- Other Plaintiff’s or Defendants SC-100A
- Fictitious Business Name SC-103
- Authorization to Appear on Behalf of Party SC-109
- Proof of Service SC-104
We provide affordable small claims court legal document preparation services and coaching to California residents and businesses. Sign up for our service today if you would like assistance with preparing the documents you need to obtain a small claims judgment.
How Do I Serve the Defendant?
We recommend you hire a process server or local sheriff to serve your claim on the defendant. The defendant must be served with the filed claim before the trial date. The defendant must be served at least 15 days before the court date if served personally. If the complaint is sent by mail, the defendant must receive it at least 25 days before the court date. The server must be at least 18-years-old and not a party to the lawsuit. You can pay the court clerk to mail your claim to the defendant you are suing by certified mail. Make sure you serve the right person and file your proof of service with the court.
Can the Defendant Respond to the Claim?
Yes. The defendant can provide an answer to contest the plaintiff’s claim and file a cross-claim to obtain damages. Forms for a cross-claim include the following:
- Defendant’s Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court Form SC-120
- Defendant’s Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court Form SC-120A
- If you are a business, you may also have to fill out a Fictitious Business Name (Small Claims) Form SC-103
The defendant must file the forms and serve them on the moving party. The defendant may be required to complete locally approved court forms as well.
What Happens During the Trial?
At trial, each party will have the opportunity to present evidence to the judge to support his/her position. The judge will review the facts and apply them to California laws and issue a ruling. The unsuccessful party can appeal the judge’s decision. The prevailing party must mail a Notice of Entry of Judgment to the unsuccessful party before taking any action to collect the judgment. If an appeal is not filed after notice is provided, the prevailing party can begin collection proceedings on the 31st day.
Contact San Diego Esquire for more information on how to enforce your judgment.