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Small Claims & Judgment Collection

Small Claims Clinic
Small Claims Clinic Powerpoint Presentation
Small Claims Packet
Small Claims FAQs
Small Claims Appeals
Judgment Collection


Small Claims Clinic:

The Small Claims Clinic is held on Tuesdays from 3pm-5pm in room 305E on the third floor of the courthouse. This clinic is for those who need assistance with small claims procedures and with the small claims paperwork.

This is also a class for those who already have a small claims judgment and need assistance with enforcing it.

If you need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit, please contact the Civil Self-Help Center by phone or email.

The most frequently used Small Claims forms, and Information on small claims procedures, are available for download here:

Small Claims Self-Help Packet
- This packet requires these forms (click to view & download)

Enforcing Your Judgment
- This packet requires these forms (click to view & download)

Further information on Small Claims, as well as all Small Claims forms, can be found at the California Courts Self-Help Website: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-smallclaims.htm .

Small Claims Frequently Asked Questions:

What is small claims court?

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.

Who can sue in small claims court?

Any mentally competent person who is:
      18 years old or older, OR
      an emancipated child.

If you are:
      not mentally competent, OR
      under 18 years old (and not emancipated)

a judge must appoint an adult called a guardian ad litem to represent you in small claims court.

How much money can I ask for?

An individual cannot ask for more than $7,500 in a claim. Corporations and other entities (like, government entities) cannot ask for more than $5,000. 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.

You can only sue a guarantor for up to $4,000 ($2,500 if they don't charge for the guarantee). But, if you are a natural person filing against the Registrar of the Contractors' State License Board you can sue a guarantor for up to $7500. A "guarantor" is a person who promises to be responsible for what another person owes.

Do I have to pay to file?

Yes, unless you qualify for a Fee Waiver. The fee is based on the amount of your claim and the number of claims you have filed in the past 12 months:

If you have filed 12 or fewer claims in the past 12 months:

Amount of your claim:        Filing Fee:
$0 to $1500   $30
$1500.01 to $5,000   $50
$5000.01 to $7,500   $75


If you have filed more than 12 claims in the past 12 months, the filing fee is $100 (for any claim amount).

If you are low-income, you may be able to qualify for a fee waiver and not have to pay a filing fee. Fee Waiver forms and information can be found here.


Small Claims Appeals:

If I lose my small claims case, can I appeal?

Only a defendant can file an appeal; the plaintiff cannot appeal if they lose their case. However, if the defendant filed a separate claim against the plaintiff in the same case, and the plaintiff lost, the plaintiff can appeal that decision. The defendant's insurance company can also file an appeal if it's asked to pay more than $2,500.

How much time do I have to file an appeal?

You have 30 days to file an appeal from the date of mailing of the Notice of Entry of Judgment. This date will be on your copy of the decision. If the judge made a decision at your hearing and you have not received a copy of the judgment, contact the court immediately at (707) 445-7256.

How do I file an appeal?

To appeal the judge’s decision, you must file form SC-140: Notice of Appeal (Small Claims) at the Eureka courthouse at 421 I Street. You can pick up this form at the courthouse or download it here.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

A new judge hears all the evidence again and makes a decision. That judge doesn’t know what happened in the first trial, so this new judge looks at everything as if the case was being decided for the first time. You can have an attorney represent you at the appeal, and it is possible that the judge may award you $150 in attorney fees and/or up to $150 for your actual loss of earnings, expenses of transportation and lodging actually incurred in connection with the appeal.

If you want to ask for attorney fees and/or earnings, transportation and lodging, be sure to speak up during the hearing. You may be asked to prove your actual loss, so you may need paperwork showing the charges.


Judgment Collection:

Often, the more difficult part of pursuing a claim in small claims court is enforcing your small claims judgment after you win your case. If the defendant (who becomes a judgment debtor if you win your small claims case against them) has no money or refuses to pay, it may be difficult to collect your judgment.

The Civil Self-Help Center can provide you with information on what possible options you may have to try to enforce your judgment, and can help you fill out the judgment collection forms.

You can also find valuable information on this topic at the California Courts Self-Help Website.

© 2014 Superior Court of the County of Humboldt