«Small Claims Court» - Free Essay Paper

Small Claims Court

In today’s complex society, disputes emerge involving small claims of either money or property. Small claims courts are legal institutions establish to help settle such disputes without either party incurring huge legal fees. The plaintiff is the individual or a group who files the complaint while the accused is the defendant. The hearing is relatively informal with the judgment rendered in most cases at the end of the trial. The fundamental principles in the particular small claims court are to ensure inexpensive and swift rendering of fair and just judgment. The current paper analyzes the various steps taken to file and resolve small claims in an economically viable manner. The essay focuses on Santa Clara County’s Small Claims Court proceeding that happens in the Downtown Superior Court (DTS).

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Just like in other legal proceedings, the plaintiff must put several issues under consideration before filing the case. The first determination that the potential plaintiff has to make is whether they have the supporting documents or witness to prosecute the case. Second, the complainant must have asked for the money from the defendant before taking the issue to court. The demand for the money should be made in writing or through the phone, or both (“Small Claims Division”). Finally, the offenders should be in a position to prove that they lost money and deserves to be compensated. The loss of money can be justified through warranties, letters, and contracts in writing, receipts, canceled checks, professional damage estimates, photos, your witness statements, your statements and, in some cases, through drawings (“Small Claims Division”).  If all efforts to settle the case out of court prove to be an exercise in futility, the offender must obtain the small claims forms from either of the following sources:

  • Get the form either physically or through writing from small claims courts,
  • Go to the Judicial Council’s website (www.courts.ca.gov)
  • Download the form from the following link: http://ww.courts.ca.gov/sc100.pdf

In addition to the above determination, an individual and the case must fulfill several other small claims to follow all legal case requirements. An individual can settle disputes in a small claims court only if the total amount claimed equals or is less than $10,000 (Cartoni). Persons who own business under the fictitious business name are considered to be individuals in the eye of the law. Other business partnerships, corporation, or any other apart from sole proprietorship can only claim a maximum of $5,000 through small claims courts (Cartoni). Individuals and corporations split the applications to circumvent the legal limit. However, an individual can only file two claims worth more than $2,500 in a single year (“Small Claims Division”).

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In case the amount exceeds the limit, an individual has the option of giving a waiver of the extra to have the case handled in the small claims court. Otherwise, the claims should be taken to the civil courts through a lawyer. Cases against guarantors are limited to a claim of not more than $4,000 (“Small Claims Division”). The timely filing of the case is also a critical legal requirement considering the statute of limitations may lead to claims dismissal based on the time of filing. Other legal requirements include the filing claims fees that are depended on the amount claimed and the number of small claims that a claimant has filed within the last 12 months.

The next step in fulfilling the legal demand involves filing the case in the right court. Proper venue of the case must be in the right district and county. The right district and county are determined by the judicial district of the defendant (Cartoni). The case can be dismissed without prejudice if the case is filed away from the place where the defendant lives. Although the law provides exceptions to this rule, they are complicated and subject to the determination of the judge. Claims filed away from where the defendant lives take longer before the actual hearing. Claims are filed with the cleerk at Downtown Superior Court (DTS). The DTS drop box is available Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the lobby (“Small Claims Division”). A request can be made to have the hearing on the second or fourth Tuesday of the month at night.

Small claims suits address several topics including personal injury, money owed, car accidents, landlord and tenant disputes, and property damaged. The eligibility of filing such claims requires that an individual is of age 18 and above or be business entities, corporate and partnerships. Those persons who are less than 18 years can have an adult file of the case on their behalf (Cartoni). Mentally incompetent persons in the eyes of the law are not eligible in filing small claims suits. 

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Several forms can be submitted depending on the nature and parties involved in the dispute. An individual files a plaintiff’s claim and order to the defendant. Business files a fictitious name declaration form. The filing process requires that the plaintiff serves the defendant with a copy of the claims in time and file a proof of service with the before the hearing date. Claims of $1,500 or less attract a $30 filing fee; claims less than $5,000 but greater than $1,500 cost $50 while those above $5,000 have a filing fee equivalent to $75 (“Small Claims Division”). Other charges may be added depending on the number of claims filed by an individual or business within the year. Both parties can obtain attorneys’ advice before the hearing, but attorneys do not participate in the actual proceeding.

In conclusion, the essay gave the general overview of the process than an individual goes through in the course of filing a claim with small claim courts. Some of the issues highlighted include the filing process, the cases that the court handle, the maximum claims that the claimant can claim through such courts and the legal requirements for successful prosecution of such a case. The forms, time and place of filing, and legal fees associated with each claim were also discussed.

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