What is small claims court?
Small claims court is a special court where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively. The rules are simple and informal. The person who sues is called the plaintiff. The person who is sued is called the defendant.
Who can sue in small claims court?
Any mentally competent person who is:
* 18 year old or older, OR
* an emancipated child.
If you are:
* not mentally competent, OR
* under 18 years old (and not emancipated),
a judge must appoint an adult called a guardian ad litem to represent you in small claims court.
How much money can I ask for?
An individual cannot ask for 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.
You can only sue a guarantor for up to $4,000 ($2,500 if they don't charge for the guarantee). But, if you 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.
Do I have to pay to file?
Yes. The fee is based on the amount of your claim and the number of claims you have filed in the past 12 months:
If you have filed 12 or fewer claims in the past 12 months:
Amount of your claim: Filing Fee
$0 to $1500 $30
$1500.01 to $5,000 $50
$5000.01 to $7,500 $75
If you have filed more than 12 claims in the past 12 months, the filing fee is $100 (for any claim amount).
Can I bring a lawyer?
No, a lawyer can't represent you in court. But you can talk to a lawyer before or after court.
How long do I have to wait to go to court?
You will go to court between 20 and 70 days after you file your claim.
What kinds of cases go to small claims court?
There are different kinds of cases. The most common are: car accidents, property damage, landlord/tenant rent deposit disputes, and collection of money owed.
What will happen at my hearing?
The judge will listen to both sides of the story. To help tell your side, bring evidence like:
* Other relevant documents that support your side
The judge may make a decision at your hearing, or mail it to you later. Instead of a judge, you may have a commissioner or temporary judge at your hearing. They are both just like judges. A temporary judge (called a "judge pro tem" or "judge pro tempore") is a lawyer who hears and decides cases. If you don't want a temporary judge, you can ask the court to have a judge hear your case. You may have to come back another day. Click here to find out how to get ready for court.
Can I appeal the judge's decision?
You can't appeal if you were the one who filed the claim. If someone else files a claim against you and you lose, you can appeal.