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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.

Code of Civil Procedure Chapter Five sections 116.110-116.910 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 $10,000 (businesses can only ask for up to $5,000); 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 Court's Self-Help Center (Small Claims)
California Court Forms
Department of Consumer Affairs (Small Claims Guide)

Hearings are typically heard on Tuesdays at 2:30 pm in Department 2.

Small Claims FAQs

Th maximum amount you can sue for is up to $10,000. You cannot file more than two claims for more than $2,500.00 each during a calendar year.

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

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]

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]

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 letter 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' Going to Court page.

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].

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).

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

It is required by law that the creditor files an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment [form EJ-100] with the court upon full or partial payment of a judgment. 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.

If you do not agree with the judgment, you may ask the Court to vacate the judgment. To make this request, you must file a Motion to Vacate [form SC-135] the judgment within 30 days after the date that the Notice of Entry of Judgment was mailed to you. If granted, the default judgment will be vacated and the matter will be reset for a trial. If the request is denied, you have 10 days from the date that the notice of denial was mailed to file a Small Claims Appeal [form SC-140].

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