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What If I Am Being Sued in the Wrong Court?

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Every county in California has a small claims court, and larger counties have several small claims court branches. A claim has to be filed in the right county, in the right court branch (if there is more than one.)

You can ask for your case to be dismissed if you are sued in the wrong court.  You can do this in one of two ways: 

  1. File a Motion to Dismiss the case “without prejudice” Opens new window with the court. To learn how to do that, click here.

    • You must also send a copy of your Motion to the other side and 
    • File a proof of mailing with the court clerk. 
       
  2. Or, you can go to court on the hearing date and ask for your case to be dismissed because it is the wrong court.


If the judge agrees with you, he or she will probably dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning that the plaintiff can file the same suit again in the proper court.


If you do not go to court – and you ask the court to dismiss the case in writing -- and the judge does NOT agree with you (denies your request), the judge may: 

  • postpone the hearing for at least 15 days to give you the opportunity to appear, or 
  • enter a default judgment Opens new window against you.  (If the judge enters a default against you, you will have to file a request to cancel the judgment.) 

    • The court will mail its decision to you. 
    • To learn how to ask the court to cancel the judgment, click here.

The following are some questions that may help you decide what to do:

  • Where should a claim usually be filed?
    The plaintiff can always sue you in the county where you live or do business. 
     
  • What if I'm being sued because of a contract?
    You can also be sued where you signed the contract.  Or, you can be sued where you were supposed to perform the contract, or where you allegedly broke the contract. 
     
  • What if a corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC) is being sued?
    The corporation (or LLC) can be sued where the corporation (or LLC) broke the contract.  If the person suing says he or she was hurt, or if their property was damaged, the corporation (or LLC) can be sued where that happened.  A corporation (or LLC) can also be sued where its business is located. 
     
  • What if I don't have a contract, but the plaintiff says I owe them money?
    The plaintiff can sue you where you lived when you allegedly made the agreement, or where you live now, or where the plaintiff was hurt. 
     
  • What if the plaintiff says I owe them money for layaway, a sales contract, or a car sale?

    The plaintiff can sue: 

    • Where you live; 
    • Where you lived when you signed the contract; 
    • Where you signed the contract; or 
    • Where the car or other thing involved in the dispute is permanently located. 
       
  • What if I do not live in California?
    An out-of-state resident or business can be sued in a small claims court in California.  However, an out-of-state resident or business cannot be served out-of-state.  If you do not live – or do business – in California and you receive small claims papers in the mail, file a Motion to Dismiss the case “without prejudice” with the court. 
    To learn how to do that, click here.

    • You must also send a copy of your Motion to the other party, and 
    • File a proof of mailing the motion to the defendant (Form POS-030) with the court clerk.

      NOTE:  There are some exceptions to this rule. Out-of-state residents or business owners may be served out-of-state: 

      • If the dispute involved real property you own in California; 
      • If the lawsuit is about a traffic accident that occurred when you were in California on a public road; 
      • If you happened to be served with the court papers while you were in California. 
      • If the corporation or Limited Liability Company is registered to do business in California and has an Agent for Service of Process in California.

If your case does not fit into one of these situations, contact the Small Claims Advisor Opens new window in your county.
 


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