Basics

 Small claims court is a special court where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively. The rules are simple and informal. The person who sues is called the plaintiff. The person who is sued is called the defendant. You are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing in small claims court. But you can talk to a lawyer before or after court.
How Much Can You Sue for in Small Claims Court?

In general, a natural person (an individual) cannot ask for more than $10,000 in a claim. Businesses and other entities (like government entities) cannot ask for more than $5,000. This limit on businesses does not apply to sole proprietors, who are treated as natural persons.  You can file as many claims as you want for up to $2,500 each. But you can only file 2 claims in a calendar year that ask for more than $2,500.

There are some exceptions to the $10,000 limit for individuals:

  • As a natural person, you can only sue a guarantor for up to $6,500 ($2,500 if they do not charge for the guarantee). A “guarantor” is a person or company that promises to be responsible for what another person owes. (If you are an entity other than a natural person and the guarantor charges for its services, you may file a claim for up to $4,000.)
  • But, you can sue the Registrar of the Contractors (the executive officer of the Contractors State License Board) as a guarantor for up to $10,000.

Collections agencies cannot sue in small claims court to collect on debts that are assigned to them

 

The filing fee is based on the amount of your claim and the number of claims you have filed in the past 12 months:

Currently, the filing fees, if you have filed 12 or fewer claims in the past 12 months, are:

Amount of Your Claim Filing Fee
$0 to $1,500 $30
$1,500.01 to $5,000 $50
$5,000.01 to $10,000 $75

If you have filed more than 12 claims in the past 12 months, the filing fee is $100 (for any claim amount).  Filing fees change, so make sure you check to see what the current filing fees for small claims cases are at the time of your filing.