Small Claims Court
Among the various dispute-resolving mechanisms in civil law, small claims court allows for private cases to be solved in a courtroom setting, but in a more “informal” setting. Even if you have never been involved in a small claims court, chances are that you have seen one on television, as there have been many popular daytime shows centered on small claims courts, like Judge Judy. Not every case can go through a small claims court, which is why it is important you consult with your civil attorney regarding your case.
The Kinds of Cases in Small Claims Court
As it says in the name, small claims court deals with lawsuits where private individuals can bring forth claims. In California, the plaintiff’s (the person who is suing) claim must be less than $10,000. Anything more than $10,000 would no longer be considered a small claim. However, the rule changes slightly for businesses, as certain businesses can only make claims for up to $5,000. Given the claim limit, some kinds of cases are more popular in small claims court than others. For example, the cases most often landing in small claims court are those dealing with disputes between landlords and tenants, neighbors, or with someone owing you money.
What is the Legal Process?
If you are above the age of 18, you can file a claim. Be prepared to pay a filing fee, which corresponds to the amount of the claim in your lawsuit. The maximum filing fee is $75, which must be paid for if the case deals with $5,000 to $10,000. After filing your claim and paying the fee, you will be required to go to court once your date arrives. A small claims court will review many cases in one day, thereby making each case go by quite quickly. Therefore, make sure to bring the documentation you need to prove your case. These cases do not require legal representation (a lawyer) in court. Those interested in small claims court are encouraged to speak with an experienced attorney before making the decision and reading more information on the California Court Self-Help page.