California Small Claims Court: An Overview

From maximum dollar limits to statutes of limitations, learn the basics about small claims court in California.

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What's the dollar limit for small claims court cases in California?

The most you can ask for in a small claims case is $10,000, but note that an individual plaintiff may not file a claim over $2,500 more than twice a year. A local public entity or business is limited to $5,000 per year. $6,500 is the limit in suits by an individual against a guarantor that charges for its guarantor or surety services.

Which court hears small claims cases in California?

Small claims cases in California are heard in the Small Claims Division (Superior Court).

What is the statute of limitations period for filing a claim in small claims court in California?

For information on California's statute of limitation periods for claims related to written contracts, oral contracts, injuries, and property damage, see Nolo's 50-state Statute of Limitations chart.

Are attorneys allowed in small claims court in California?

You are not allowed to have an attorney represent you in small claims court in California.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in small claims court in California?

Eviction cases are not allowed in small claims court in California, but must be heard by a higher court.

Do I have a right to a jury trial in small claims court in California?

In California, jury trials are not allowed in small claims court but will be required in certain limited civil cases after July 1, 2016.

Where can I get more information about small claims court in California?

For more information about California small claims court, see the California Judicial Branch website or the California Department of Consumer Affairs website. 

Nolo's Small Claims Court area has many helpful related articles. For more detailed help with filing a case, using the best strategy in court, and collecting your money if you win, see Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court in California, by Attorney Ralph Warner (Nolo).

Updated: March 1, 2016

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