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The person who sues is the plaintiff. The person who is sued is the defendant. In small claims court, you may ask a lawyer for advice before you go to court, but you cannot have a lawyer in court. Your claim cannot be for more than $5,000 if you are a business or public entity or for more than $10,000 if you are a natural person. If you have a claim for more than this amount, you may sue in the civil division of the trial court or you may sue in the small claims court and give up your right to the amount over the limit. You cannot, however, file more than two cases in small claims court for more than $2,500 each during a calendar year.
You must sue in the right court and location. This rule is called venue. If you file your claim in the wrong court, the court will dismiss the claim. The right location may be any of these:
- Where the defendant lives or where the business involved is located;
- Where the damage or accident happened;
- Where the contract was signed or carried out;
- If the defendant is a corporation, where the contract was broken;
- For a retail installment account or sales contract or a motor vehicle finance sale:
- Where the buyer lives;
- Where the buyer lived when the contract was entered into;
- Where the buyer signed the contract; or
- Where the goods or vehicle are permanently kept.
Additional on-line information is available at www.courts.ca.gov.
You can get small claims forms at our office or at www.courts.ca.gov/forms