If You Want to Sue Someone in Small Claims Court
Show Me | Tell Me
Small claims courts are used by people who want to collect a debt, to recover damages for a faulty product or for shoddy service, or for similar disputes. An individual cannot ask for more than $10,000 in a claim.
Small claims courts are also used by businesses and government agencies (called “public entities”) that want to collect payments from customers for unpaid debts. Corporations and other entities (like, government entities) cannot ask for more than $5,000 in a claim.
NOTE: If you are suing a guarantor, contact your Small Claims Advisor for more information.
The person, business or government agency that files court papers first is called the "plaintiff," and is known as the plaintiff until there is a court judgment. The person, business or government agency that is being sued is known as the "defendant," and is known as the defendant throughout the case – regardless of whether or not they counter sued by filing a case against the plaintiff.
This part of the website has information to help you if you want to sue someone in small claims court.
The section called "Before You Start a Court Case" gives you information to help you decide what you want to do.
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.
The section called "After Your Court Case" gives you information about:
- 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 ), 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 ”) 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 have given information about 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.
To view a short video about the Basics of Small Claims Court, click here.
For information about the Small Claims Advisor program in your county, click here.
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