Resolving "Small" Matters: California Small Claims Court

small claims court

What is Small Claims Court in California?

California small claims court is a special court where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively.  In small claims court, the rules are simplified and the hearing in front of the judge is informal.  In fact, unless a case is in appeal, attorneys are not allowed to represent clients in small claims hearings.  Like regular civil court, the person who files a claim in small court is called the plaintiff. The person who is getting sued is called the defendant.  

Small Claims Filing Limits

The reason it’s called “small claims” is because it is meant for “small” matters.  Thus, small claims lawsuits in California have a limit on how much a plaintiff can sue for.  If the plaintiff is a natural person (meaning, the plaintiff is an individual and not a corporation or legal entity), they can sue for up to $10,000.  Corporations and legal entities however may only sue for up to $5,000.  Moreover, no plaintiff may file more than two small claims court actions in one year for more than $2,500 anywhere in the state of California.

Small Claims Filing Fees

The filing fees for the plaintiff in small claims depend on the amount of the claim.  For claims less than $1,500, the fee is $30.  Claims between $1,500 and $5000 carry a $50 filing fee.  Finally, for claims between $5001 and $10,000, the filing fee is $75.   

Some Examples of Disputes That May be Resolved in Small Claims

  • Your former landlord refuses to return the security deposit you paid

  • Someone damages your car and refuses to pay for the repair

  • The new appliance you bought won’t work and the store won’t take it back

  • Your tenant caused damage to your apartment in an amount exceeding the security deposit

  • You lent money to a “friend” and they refuse to repay it.

Can An Attorney Help You with Your Small Claims Case?

Yes, an attorney can help you with your small claims case.  While an attorney cannot appear for you at your small claims hearing, they can assist you with filling out the paper work and preparing your case for the judge.

How an Attorney Can Help You

  • Preparing the small claims form properly

  • Filing the claim form with the correct courthouse

  • Serving your claim on the defendant

  • If you are a defendant, filing a proper counterclaim against the plaintiff and serving it on the “cross-defendant” plaintiff.

  • For plaintiffs and defendants, coach you on what to expect at the small claims hearing

  • Review your documents and evidence to provide an opinion on strategy heading into the hearing

  • Organize your exhibits in a way that is easy for the judge to follow and understand

Contact Harp Law for Small Claims Assistance

Attorney Hadi Harp provides small claims coaching, counseling and advisor services to plaintiffs and defendants in California.  Having mediated hundreds of small claims cases in California, Hadi understands the process and has the experience to prepare you for your day in court.  

Schedule an Advisor Session online today to discuss your small claims case with HARP LAW (click here).  

Disclaimer: This is attorney advertising and nothing in this post should be interpreted to create an attorney-client relationship.