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Small Claims Court: Litigation without Litigators

Picture of the Tulare County Courthouse to illustrate where small claims cases can be filed

I am not a litigator (trial attorney), so I normally do not write about litigation. Recently, however, I have discussed several matters where small claims court seems appropriate. I will share some basic information about small claims cases in California.

The CA Courts’ Small Claims Self-Help Center provide extensive, detailed information. The most important point is that small claims court judgments are limited to ordering the payment of money. You cannot, for example, ask a small claims court to order that the defendant stop infringing a patent or trademark.

There are limitations on how much money the plaintiff can seek. Generally, an individual can ask for up to $10,000 and a corporation or other entity can ask for up to $5,000. However, there are additional limitations.

The plaintiff must file the claim in a proper county. For example, if the claim arises from a contract, a proper county is where the plaintiff signed the contract or where the defendant lived or did business at that time. (Additional counties may be appropriate if the defendant is a corporation.)

The plaintiff has to fill out certain forms, file the forms with the court clerk, and serve the forms on the defendant. There will be a hearing. If the plaintiff wins, there are several ways to approach collecting the judgment. If the defendant wins, the matter is concluded.

Compared to typical litigation, small claims cases are quick, easy and inexpensive. Best of all, you don’t have to hire a litigator!

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.