California Small Claims Court Information

  • Statutes: Annotated California Codes, Code of Civil Procedure, Part 1, Title 1, Ch. 5.5, Sections 116.110-950.
  • Dollar limit: $7,500, except that a plaintiff may not file a claim over $2,500 more than twice per year. Suits on behalf of local public entities are exempt from the twice-per-year filing limit. $4,000 is the limit for suits involving a surety company or licensed contractor.
  • Where to file: Where defendant resides or injury occurred. For contract suits, where contract signed or where performance expected.
  • Service: Personal service by sheriff or court-approved disinterested adult. Any mail service providing return receipt.
  • Hearing Date: 20-70 days after the claim is filed.
  • Attorneys: Not allowed unless attorney represents self.
  • Transfer: If defendant counterclaims for more than $7,500, counterclaim removed to higher court if judge permits.
  • Appeals: By defendant (or plaintiff who lost on a counterclaim) for new trial; to Superior Court within 30 days. Motion to appeal is filed with the clerk of the small claims court.
  • Special provisions: Equitable relief available. Interpreters available. Small claims advisor available.

Note: This section outlines the special rules that apply to the small claims courts of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Filing fees are not listed because they vary greatly and change frequently. Because court rules may change at any time, always check with the clerk of the small claims court to verify the accuracy of the information given for your state.

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