What follows is a brief but informative summary of rules, procedures, and filings requirements for small claims court in California. Keep in mind that rules and laws change. It’s always a good idea to confirm the rules with the court or with further research.
Maximum Jurisdictional Dollar Amount: An individual cannot seek more than $7,500 in a claim. Corporations and other entities (like government entities) 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 a calendar year that ask for more than $2,500.
One can only sue a guarantor for up to $4,000 ($2,500 if they don’t charge for the guarantee). But, if one are a natural person filing against the Registrar of the Contractors’ State License Board you can sue a guarantor for up to $7500. A “guarantor” is a person who promises to be responsible for what another person owes.
Where Suit May Be Brought: Cases should be brought where the defendant resides or injury occurred. Contract cases may be brought where the performance expected. Consumer Contract cases may be brought where the signed. A corporation is deemed to reside where it does business.
Proper Manner of Service of Process upon Defendant: Service may be made by certified or registered mail, sheriff or court-approved disinterested adult.
How the Hearing Date Is Selected: Defendant in country: 10-40 days after summons issued. One or more defendants outside country: 30-70 days after summons issued. All other cases: 90 days after summons issued.
Attorney Representation Rule: Attorneys are not allowed unless attorney represents self.
Special Provisions Regarding Transfer or Jurisdiction of Cases: If defendant counterclaims for more than $5,000, counterclaim removed to higher court if judge permits.
Availability of Appeals: A defendant may appeal for a new trial to Superior Court within 30 days. Lawyers are allowed to appear in appeals.
Special Rules and Notes: Injunctive relief is available. Right to sue may not be transferred. Judge may determine payment schedule. Interpreters are available. Small claims advisor is available at no cost. The court may order arbitration. Assignees (collection agencies) cannot sue in Small Claims Court. Small claims court cannot hear eviction cases.
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Michael Spadaccini is the author of 8 books on self-help legal matters such as, Ultimate LLC Compliance Guide: Covers All 50 States (Ultimate Series), Ultimate Book of Forming Corps, LLCs, Partnerships & Sole Proprietorships, and Ultimate Guide to Forming an LLC in Any State, Second Edition (Ultimate Series).
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