One of the advantages of small claims court is that when you file your case you are not required to present theories of law–instead, you simply state the facts of the dispute and rely on the judge to fit them into one or another legal theory of recovery. All you really need to know is that you have suffered monetary loss and that the person or business you are suing caused your loss.
In Chapter 10, we'll go over the forms you must file to start your lawsuit. In your complaint or claim, you will give a simple description of the dispute. Depending, of course, on the facts of your case, you will state your claim more or less like this:
- "John's Dry Cleaners ruined my jacket on December 13, 20xx."
- "His dog bit me on the corner of Rose and Peach Streets in West Covina, California, on April 27, 20xx."
- "The car repairs that Joe's Garage did on my car on July 11, 20xx, were done wrong, resulting in an engine fire."
- "Landlord refused to return the cleaning deposit when I moved out of my apartment on August 11, 20xx, even though I left it clean."
- "The used car I purchased from her on January 26, 20xx, in 'tiptop condition,' blew a gasket the next day."
- "The $5,000 I lent defendant has not been repaid by November 12, 20xx, as promised."
Don't argue your case until you get to court. When you state your case on the court papers, your goal is to notify the other party and the court of the issue in dispute. You don't need or want to try to list your evidence or otherwise try to convince anyone that you are in the right or that the law is on your side. Your chance to do this will come later in court.