Small Claims - the Basics

When you file your claim, you will be assigned a case number, a court date and a location of where to appear.

The jurisdictional limit of Small Claims Court is $10,000 for plaintiffs filing as individuals or "natural persons" or businesses that are sole proprietors. Corporations and other entities may file suit for a maximum of $5,000.00. Suits against "guarantors" are limited to $4,000.00. Visit courts,ca.gov/selfhelp for more information.

The jurisdictional limits do not include court costs. You may file only 2 claims in excess of $2,500.00 anywhere in the state in any calendar year. There is no limit to the number of claims you can file under $2,500.00. However there is an increased filing fee if you file more than 12 claims in the previous 12 months.

Do not add your filing fee and service fees to your claim amount. Keep your receipts and show them to the judge/commissioner for reimbursement.

You cannot be represented by an attorney at trial. You may consult with an attorney about your case before and after trial. You may be represented by an attorney only on appeal.

In San Luis Obispo County, Small Claims trials are primarily heard by court commissioners and occasionally judge pro tems. You may ask a Judge pro tem for another court date when he announces he is not a commissioner on the day of court. 

The Small Claims Court commissioner does not have the power to grant injunctions and the court will not hear family law matters.

Self Help Legal Center

To better assist self-represented litigants, the California Courts have created a website with helpful information and links to other resources for Small Claims litigants. Their site is located at www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp and contains information for filing the initial forms, presenting your case in court, and collecting your judgment. The site links to the California Department of Consumer Affairs with a listing of various bureaus and regulatory agencies as well as departmental publications or go directly there at www.dca.ca.gov