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In California, most adults, businesses or government agencies can ask the court to help them get someone to pay money they think is owed to them.  Individuals and sole proprietorships can sue in small claims court if the amount of money owed is $10,000 or less. Businesses (other than sole proprietorships) and government agencies can sue in small claims court if the amount of money owed is or $5,000 or less.

The person, business or government agency that files court papers to start the case is called the “plaintiff,” and is known as the plaintiff until the judge has made a decision in the case. The person, business or government agency that is being sued is called the “defendant,” and is known as the defendant even if he, she or it sues the plaintiff back by filing a claim of their own.

You can make handling your small claims case easier by learning something about these cases in general, and then taking the court process one step at a time.


This part of the website has information about small claims cases.

BEFORE
The section called "Before a Court Case" gives you information to help you decide what you want to do.

DURING
The section called "During Your Court Case" gives you information about how to get through the court process, if that's what you decide to do.

AFTER
The section called "After Your Court Case" gives information about what to do next, depending on whether you won or lost the case. It also has information about payment for the judgment debtor, and collection for the judgment creditor.


Please note:

  • Some words have special meanings when used by the court.  If you click on a word that is in blue with this symbol (example default Opens new window), a new window will open and it will give you an explanation of what the word means.
  • We also have some videos that may help you understand this information. If you see this link (example "Show Me | Tell Me") Opens new window you can click on this link which will take you to a page with video and audio files that you can watch and/or listen to on your computer.
  • Finally, most people have lots of questions about small claims cases. For this reason, we have created a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and a section with the forms you will need for your case.


To get the information you need, you can click on the section name that is in blue, use the “drop down” menu at the left side of each page, or you can click on the “Next” button at the bottom of some pages.

To view some short videos with general information about how California's court system works, click here. Opens new window

To view a short video with the basics of California’s small claims courts, click hereOpens new window

For information about the Small Claims Advisor program in Contra Costa County, California, click here. Opens new window

 

Contra Costa Legal Help Other CA Legal Help

 


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