Do I need to file in small claims court? – Anatomy of a Lawsuit Part II

This series applies to California lawsuits only. For rules regarding your state’s small claims procedure, visit the website for your state’s judicial branch.

So you’ve figured out the Statute of Limitations issue.  Now where to file your lawsuit – small claims or civil court?

What is small claims court?

Small claims court is a civil court lite to deal with dispute amounts (claims) that are relatively small. The disputes are resolved quickly, informally, without a jury or lawyers.  However, even though you are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the small claims hearing, you could get a lawyer’s help before or after the hearing.

What is the claim limit in small claims?

Individuals – Generally, you may not ask for more than $7,500.

Corporations or other entities – Generally, you may not ask for more than $5,000

What are the types of Claims you can file in small claims?

Some common types of small claims cases are related to:
• Property damage or personal injury from a car accident;
• Landlord/tenant security deposits;
• Damage to your property by a neighbor;
• Disputes with contractors about repairs or home improvement jobs;
• Collection of money owed;
• Homeowner association disputes;
• General contract disputes; and
• Contract disputes.

What are the deadlines for filing in small claims court?

The general statutes of limitations (deadlines to file a claim) apply.  These were previously discussed.

Do I have to pay to file a small claim?

Yes, the filing fee is based on the amount of your claim and the number of claims you have filed in the past 12 months:

Currently, the filing fees, if you have filed less then 12 claims in the past 12 months, are:
$30 – for claims from $0 to $1,500
$50 – for claims from $1,500.01 to $5,000
$75 – from claims from $5,000.01 to $7,500

If you have filed more than 12 claims in the past 12 months, the filing fee is $100 (for any claim amount).  Filing fees change, so make sure you check to see what the current filing fees for small claims cases are at the time of your filing.

Can I appeal the small claims court’s decision if I lose?

If you were the person who filed the claim, you may not appeal the court’s decision.  However, if someone else files a claim against you and you lose, you can appeal to the superior court.  This means that even if you initially filed the claim but the other person sues you back and you lose, you can appeal the entire court decision.  You CAN have a lawyer represent you on the appeal.

How do I appeal a small claims decision?

If you were at the hearing, you must file a form called Notice of Appeal (Form SC-140).  You have 30 days to file this form from the date the clerk mails the Notice of Entry of Judgment.

If you need assistance with a small claims appeal, feel free to contact me or call 949.529.0007.

In: Anatomy of a Lawsuit

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