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How Much Money Can I Sue For?

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Small claims cases are civil cases that have to do with money problems – including physical or emotional injuries, property damage, or broken contracts.

In California, civil lawsuits fall into different categories:
  • Unlimited Civil (for damages more than $25,000)
  • Limited Civil (for damages of $25,000 or less)
  • Small Claims (seeking damages of $10,000 or less for a person or sole proprietorship, or $5,000 or less for other businesses or government agencies)
  • Family Law
  • Probate,
  • Traffic, and
  • Unlawful Detainer (landlord/tenant disputes)


In Small Claims cases:
 

  • An individual or sole proprietorship cannot ask for more than $10,000 in
    a claim.
     
  • Other businesses or government agencies (called “public entities”)
    cannot ask for more than $5,000.

Special Small Claims Cases: 

  • Guarantors
    A "guarantorOpens new window is a person or company which promises to be responsible for what another person or company owes.  A guarantor can only be sued for up to $4,000 ($2,500 if they don't charge for the guarantee). 

    • But, a natural person filing against the Registrar of the Contractors' State License Board can sue this guarantor for up to $10,000. 
       
  •  Multiple Plaintiffs
    If the case arose out of the same incident (for example, a car accident where several persons were injured), then each person injured may sue for up to the amount allowed.

    • Some contracts may also include several claims by several plaintiffs. Consider getting advice from an attorney or a Small Claims Advisor if you are not sure if this applies in your case. 
       
  • Multiple Plaintiffs and Defendants
    Some cases involve several defendants and one or more plaintiffs. A plaintiff may have a claim against each defendant for up the amount allowed. Consider getting advice from an attorney or a Small Claims Advisor if you are not sure if this applies in your case.


NOTE:  It is not legal to split an over-the-limit claim into two smaller ones if the claim as a whole arises out of the same occurrence or transaction (called “cause of action”).

If you want to claim more than $10,000 – or you are not asking for money, but want the court to order someone to do something (or stop doing something) -- you may file in Limited Civil Court (or Unlimited Civil if you are seeking damages more than $25,000).


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