Small Claims Court is a way to sue a person, business, or government agency that you believe owes you money. It is typically a faster, cheaper, and less formal process than filing a standard civil case, but there are certain rules that you must follow.
- Neither party can be represented by a lawyer.
- If you win the case, you must collect the money you are owed. The court will not do it for you.
- If you started the case, you can't appeal if you lose your case. The judge’s decision is final. You can appeal if you are sued, or the other side sues you back, and you lose.
The person who files the claim is called the plaintiff and the person being sued is called the defendant.
Plaintiffs can generally sue for up to $10,000 in small claims court (or up to $5,000 if you’re a business). Plaintiffs may file as many claims as they like for up to $2,500 each calendar year. However, plaintiffs can only file two claims in a calendar year that seek more than $2,500 per claim.
In most cases, you will be required to pay a fee to file papers with the court. Filing fees are set by the Statewide Civil Fee Schedule. If you can’t afford the filing fee(s), you can ask the court for a “fee waiver” in order to file for free.
CA Courts Self-Help Center
A guide from the Judicial Council about the Small Claims process.
Alpine Self-Help Services
Alpine County's Self-Help Services cannot give legal advice, but they can assist in completing forms and provide information about basic legal processes.
CA Department of Consumer Affairs
A guide from the California Department of Consumer Affairs about small claims court.