When people have disputes about money that they cannot resolve by themselves, one of their options is to go to a “small claims” court to ask a judge to decide what should be done. In California, small claims courts usually hear cases that involve:
NOTE: If the claim is for more than the amount allowed in small claims court, the person or business may sue in the civil division of the trial court.
Small claims courts are used by members of the public who want to sue someone who broke a contract, stole from them, or injured them or their property. Other reasons for suing in small claims court include recovering money for a faulty product or service. Small claims courts are also used by businesses and government agencies that want to collect payments from customers for unpaid debts.
In small claims court, the people involved may ask a lawyer for advice before they go to court, but cannot have a lawyer in the courtroom during the trial hearing.
A final small claims judgment has the same force as any other final decision by the court. That means that if the loser -- now called the "judgment debtor" -- fails to pay the judgment voluntarily, the money can be collected using normal collection techniques. These include asking the court to order an employer to take the money out of the debtor’s wages, or to order the sheriff to take some of the debtor’s property and sell it to pay off the debt.
| This website’s general information is very helpful for everyone in California. |
To find your county court’s website to learn about extra forms or procedures, click here.