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Small Claims

The purpose of small claims court is to resolve minor disputes quickly, inexpensively, and fairly. The rules are simple and the hearing is informal. You may ask a lawyer for advice before or after the hearing; but you may not have a lawyer at the hearing. The person who sues is the plaintiff. The person who is being sued is the defendant.

Amendements to CA law effective January 1, 2024, have amended the jurisdictional damage and controversy amounts for Civil cases. Small Claims Court jurisdiction over actions brought by a natural person has been amended to damages up to $12,500 (except as otherwise specified in law). Those changes are reflected on this page.

Code of Civil Procedure Chapter Five sections 116.110-116.950 contains the law pertaining to Small Claims Court.

Small Claim Basics

In the state of California, the Small Claims court has a monetary limit, called a jurisdictional limit, or the amount of money/damages that a person can claim. The most you can ask for is $12,500 (businesses can only ask for up to $6,250); additionally, you are limited to filing no more than two claims anywhere in the State of California for over $2,500 in one calendar year. You may file an unlimited number of claims for $2,500 or less.

Other helpful websites to assist you in filing or defending a claim:
California Courts' Self-Help Center (Small Claims)
California Court Forms
Department of Consumer Affairs (Small Claims Guide)

California Courts' Self-Help Center (Small Claims)

Hearings are typically heard on Thursdays at 10:00 am in Department 3.

Small Claims FAQs

Generally, you can only sue for up to $12,500 in small claims court (or up to $6,250 if you're a business).  You cannot file more than two claims for more than $2,500 each during a calendar year.

Small claims is a cheaper and faster process than civil limited cases. The filing fee for a small claims case is between $30-$100. If you can't afford the fee, you can ask the court for a fee waiver.

See the Statewide Civil Fee Schedule for information on filing costs.

Statewide Civil Fee Schedule

Typical cases involve, but are not limited to; auto accidents, property damage, landlord/tenant disputes, and the collection of personal debts.

No, you may submit handwritten forms as long as they are printed clearly and legibly in blue or black ink.

The plaintiff must file his or her claim in the proper Court and judicial district. This rule is called venue. You must be at least 18 years old to file a claim. If you are not at least 18 years old, you may ask the court to appoint a guardian. For more information on the proper venue and other requirements, see the Judicial Council form Information for the Small Claims Plaintiff [form SC-100-INFO]

Additional information can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide page Small claims in California.

Small claims in California

You must make sure the defendant finds out about your lawsuit. This has to be done according to the rules or your case may be dismissed or delayed. The correct way of notifying the defendant about the lawsuit is called service of process. This means providing the defendant with a copy of the claim. You cannot do this yourself. For information on service of process, please see the Judicial Council form What is "Proof of Service"? [form SC-104B]

Additional information can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide page Serve your small claims forms.

Serve your small claims forms

No, neither side may be represented by an attorney at trial. However, attorneys may represent either side if an appeal is filed or in connection with the enforcement of a judgement.

In order to request a continuance, you must file a Request to Postpone Small Claims Hearing [form SC-150] with the court indicating why the continuance is being requested and include a processing fee (if the defendant has been served). You are also required to mail a copy of the form to the other parties on the case. If the request is received by the court within 5 days of the court date, the request will be attached to the court case to be considered by the judge at the time of the trial. If the request is received more than 5 days prior to the court date, you will be notified of the judge's decision by mail.

  • Come to court organized and prepared.
  • Arrive promptly at your assigned court time; if you arrive late, your case may be heard without you.
  • Bring enough photocopies of all your evidence for each party and the judge.
  • Any copies submitted to the judge the day of the trial may not be returned to you.
  • Bring all your witnesses.
  • If both parties are present, meaning both the plaintiff and the defendant, you may be asked to go into the hallway to exchange and review any documents that will be submitted to the judge as evidence. This must be done prior to the case being heard.
  • Have all your documents ready and in chronological order when your case is called.
  • There will be several other cases assigned to the same time as yours, so you may have to wait to have your case heard.
  • When your case is called, you will come to the table in front of the judge. You will be asked to present your evidence and give your testimony. Always address the judge and not the other party.
  • Usually, the plaintiff will give his/her testimony first and then the defendant.
  • The judge will probably ask questions to further his/her understanding of the case.
  • If you are the only party to appear at the trial and you are the plaintiff, you still must prove your case. Do not expect to "automatically" win your case if the other party does not appear.
  • The proceedings will not be recorded by a court reporter.
  • If you are not fluent in the English language, you may ask the court, in advance, to provide an interpreter for you. For additional information, see the Language Access Services page.
  • The judge may or may not tell you the decision in court. The decision (judgement) will be mailed to you.

For more information about getting ready for court, please see the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims page Get ready for your court date.

Get ready for your court date

If you have been named as a defendant in a Small Claims action and have received an order to appear at a Small Claims hearing, this means that you are being sued. If you do not know why you are being sued, contact the plaintiff immediately for an explanation.

Never ignore an order to appear in court even if you think the case is wrong, unfair, or has no basis. If you do not appear in court at the proper time and date, the court may still hear and decide the case without you and you may lose the suit by default.

If you believe the plaintiff has caused you injury and owes you money for any reason, you can file a claim against the plaintiff in the same Small Claims court action. If your case is related to the subject of the plaintiff's case, it may be helpful and convenient to resolve it at the same hearing by filing a Defendant's Claim and Order to Plaintiff [form SC-120]. 

Additional information on suing the other side back can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims page Suing the other side back in small claims court.

If judgment has been entered against you and the appeal time has lapsed, your money or property and maybe a portion of your earnings can then be taken legally by the judgement creditor to pay the judgment against you. A Small Claims judgment is public record. Small Claims court does not report to any credit reporting agency; however, credit agencies check the Court's records to find judgements and recordings that have an effect on credit ratings.

Also, see Plaintiff's Claim and Order [form SC-100] (page 5 of this form contains Information for the Small Claims Defendant).

Additional information pertaining to your rights and responsibilities as a defendant in a Small Claims case can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims page Plaintiff's Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court.

Plaintiff's Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court

If you do not have information regarding the judgment debtor's income or property, you may make the debtor come to court to answer questions about his/her assets. This is done by filing an Application and Order to Produce Statement of Assets and to Appear for Examination [form SC-134] with the Clerk's Office including a filing fee. You must serve a copy on the defendant. Once you have the financial information needed, you may request Writ of Execution [form EJ-130]. There is a fee for issuance of a Writ of Execution. A Writ of Execution is a court order authorizing the Sheriff or other officer of the law to carry out the Court's decision to collect a money judgment. This document tells a law officer to take property of the judgment debtor to pay your claim. The kinds of property an officer may be able to take include: wages, bank accounts, automobiles, and business property or rental income. The Sheriff will charge a fee to execute the writ.

If the debtor owns real property, you may want to record an Abstract of Judgment [form EJ-001] to place a lien on the property so that you will be able to be paid if the property is purchased, sold or financed. There is a fee to the Court for issuing an Abstract of Judgment, and the abstract needs to be recorded with the County Recorder in the county where the property is located. The Recorder's Office will charge a fee to have the abstract recorded.

Lassen County Recorder/County Clerk's Office
200 South Lassen Street
Susanville, CA 96130
(530) 251-8217

Additional information on how to collect your judgment can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims pages What happens after your trial and Collect your money.

What happens after your trial

Collect your money

It is required by law that the creditor files an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment [form SC-290] with the court upon full or partial payment of a judgment.

If you put any liens on the debtors property (real estate), you must file an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment [form EJ-100] insetad. If this form is not filed, liens cannot be removed from a debtor's property and credit reporting agencies will continue to report outstanding judgments. The judgment creditor may be liable for damages if satisfaction of judgment is not filed with the court in a timely manner.

Additional information can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims page What to do when you get paid.

What to do when you get paid

If you did not go to your small claims court date, you can ask the court to cancel (vacate) what the judge decided that day and get a new court date. To make this request, you must file a Notice of Motion to Vacate [form SC-135] within 30 days after the date that the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed to you.

Additional information on this process can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims page Ask to cancel (vacate) the judge's decision.

Ask to cancel (vacate) the judge's decision

The defendant in Small Claims cases has the right to challenge the judgment in the case by filing an appeal, if you do not agree with the decision. A small claims appeal is a new trial where a different judge decides the case. You and the other side can have a lawyer present at the appeal court date.

You must file an appeal within 30 days from when the judge's decision was handed or mailed to you. To begin this process, you must file a Notice of Appeal (Small Claims) [form SC-140].

Additional information on the small claims appeal process can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help Guide Small Claims page Appeal (challenge) the judge's decision.

Appeal (challenge) the judge's decision

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