My question involves court procedures for the state of: CA
I am currently the owner of smog check test only shop. We are a privately owned, sole proprietor small business that is licensed to perform state smog inspections. We DO NOT do any repairs, just state inspections. I have one employee who shares the smog inspection duties.
For all changes of ownership, CA requires all vehicles to have a smog inspection, and it must pass the inspection. So, my employee performed an inspection on a vehicle that was brought in on "consignment" from a used car dealership. The vehicle passed with no problems. Then, it was sold it as a "private party" sale. After 3 months, the person who bought it claimed the engine was no good and needed major work. During the time she had possession of it, and after my shop inspected it, she had an unlicensed mechanic, a friend of hers, working on it.
She asked for her money back and wanted to give the vehicle back to the seller. The seller refused stating that the state "lemon law" was no longer applicable. So, she filed a complaint with the state Bureau of Auto Repair (BAR) which is a branch of state Dept. of Consumer Affairs. They investigated the case, including my shop, and closed the investigation against us and ruled our shop wasn't liable or obligated to pay her anything.
Then, she mailed all three parties involved, my business included, certified letters. She threatened to file a small claims suit against the other two parties, the used car dealer and the private party seller, and my smog inspection business. We did not respond to the letter and have been served court papers to appear in small claims court in her county, which is 50+ miles from where we all live.
We appeared once and she didn't provide all defendant parties with proper paperwork, so the judge rescheduled the pretrial hearing for next month.
We have looked at everything she has given as evidence, and since the state agency didn't rule in her favor, we would like to counter sue for our legal fees, lost wages, lost business, and travel expenses.
1) How and when can we, as in all three parties named as defendants, file a counter claim or suit against the plaintiff? Or, is it too late at this stage?
2) Since the plaintiff is suing for $5,000 + another $1,500 in court costs, subpoenas fees, and other misc. items, how much can we counter sue for?
3) What paperwork do we need to file and how do we go about it? Does it have to be sent certified mail?
4) Can we file a joint counter suit for all three defendant parties, or can we file separate counter suits?
5) What evidence do I need to prove my counter suit?