ADA
Filing a Claim

This section tells you about:

  1. Where do I file my case?
  2. Court addresses and hours
  3. Court holidays
  4. How do I get there from here?
  5. Where do I get court forms?
  6. Small Claims fees
  7. Information you need to file a claim
  8. What can I expect when I file my claim
  9. Other papers you have to attach to your claim
  10. More help for before, during and after the hearing...

  1. Where do I file my case?

  2. File your case in a court in the right county or district. In legal terms, this means you have to file in the proper venue (place).

    In general, as the plaintiff you have to file your case in the county or judicial district where the defendant lives. This makes it fair for the defendant. It's usually easier for someone to defend themselves if the case is close to where they live.

    When you file your case, you have to say on your Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Defendant form (SC - 100 ) why it is the right court. If the defendant lives outside the county or judicial district, the judge always has to decide if you are filing in the right court. If the case wasn't filed in the right court– it isn’t the right “venue”. The judge will dismiss the case without prejudice unless all defendants are there and agree to have the hearing there.

    There are exceptions to this rule. But they are complicated and hard to understand.

    If you want to file a claim in a county that is not where the defendant lives, contact your local Small Claims Advisor to see if you can. Click for the Small Claims Advisor page on this website.

    If you can file your claim in more than one place, choose the place that’s best for your witnesses. If you file where the defendant doesn't live, you have to give the defendant more time to answer your notice, and it will take longer for your case to go to court.

    Here are some exceptions:

    Car Accidents:

    You can file your claim in the county or judicial district where you had the accident or where the defendant lives.

    Contracts:

    You have to file the claim in the county or judicial district where:

    • You made the contract,
    • Where the contract was supposed to be performed by the defendant, or
    • Where you are supposed to get paid.
    Consumer purchases (when the seller sues):

    You can only file a claim to enforce a buyer’s debt in the county or judicial district:

    • Where the buyer signed the contract,
    • Where the buyer lived when the contract was signed,
    • Where the buyer lived when you filed the action, or
    • Where the things bought on credit are installed or kept.

    Consumer purchases (when the buyer sues):

    The buyer can file an action against the business that sold the items, services, or credit in the county or judicial district:

    • Where the buyer signed the contract,
    • Where the buyer lived when the contract was signed, or
    • Where the buyer lived when you filed the action.

    The buyer can also sue in any of those places if the suit is based on something you bought from a phone call that the buyer didn’t make. This means when the seller calls the buyer or the buyer answers a phone call or email.

    Where to file when you sue state agencies?

    You can file a claim against any state agency in any county where the California Attorney General has an office: Sacramento, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

    Also, if a state agency sues you, you can have the case moved to the office of the Attorney General that is closest to where you live.


  3. Court addresses and hours:

    Small Claims cases are heard at Downtown Superior Court (DTS). Click on the DTS Courthouse link to look up hours, location and contact information. When you file at the DTS, you can ask to have your hearing on Tuesday night. Night hearings will be held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at the Santa Clara Courthouse. Ask the clerk for more information when you file your case.

  4. Court holidays:

    See the Court Holidays page.

  5. How do I get there from here?

    Click on the DTS Courthouse link to look up the location and a map for driving directions.

    Other ways to get there:

    Most of the courts have limited parking. If you can, use other forms of transportation.

    To find out about bus routes from the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) call:

    (408) 321-2300  or
    (800) 894-9908 
    TTY: (408) 321-2330.

    You can also get route information from the VTA website .

    Call TRAVINFO by dialing just 511  from any of the Bay Area’s nine counties, for information on:

    • More than 25 public transportation agencies (like bus, BART, ferry, train, light rail and Para transit services)
    • Traffic conditions on the highways, bridges and major roads
    • Highway construction information
    • Carpool services
    • Parking and biking
    • Directions to the San Francisco International Airport.

    You don’t have to dial an area code. The service is free but you have to pay for the local call.  Or go to www.511.org  for information about transportation and links Web sites. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission sponsors both services.

  6. Where do I get court forms?

    You can get the forms to file your case if you:

    • Go to a small claims court (see locations),
    • Write to a small claims court (see locations),
    • Go to the Judicial Council's website at www.courts.ca.gov , or
    • Download forms from the linked form names on the pages of this website.

    If you ask for forms by mail, send a self-addressed stamped 10" x 13" envelope with the right stamps. Blank forms will be mailed to you.

    If you pick up the forms at the court, the clerks will give you instruction sheets called “Information for Plaintiff “ that tell you about how the small claims court works. The court clerk will ask you to fill out and sign a form called Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Defendant form.

    Businesses that use fictitious business names, like "Joe Jones doing business as Joe's Garage", also have to file a form called Fictitious Business Name Declaration that says that the business followed California's laws for registering a fictitious business name.

    You have to pay the filing fee when you file your papers. To find out more about fees, see the Local Court Fees page. If you can't pay, you can ask the court to waive the fees. You can ask the court for a waiver by filling out and filing a form called Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs. To find out more about fee waivers, ask the clerk for an Information Sheet called Waiver of Court Fees and Costs . Read more in the Fee Waivers FAQ.

  7. Small Claims fees:

    See the current local fee schedule  linked to the Court Fees page.

  8. Information you need to file a claim:

    All forms have to be readable: Type forms or write them in ink.

    Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Defendant:

    Fill out the "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Defendant" Form #SC-100  in three parts. (There are helpful video instructions for this form. See A/V instructions for SC-100 video icon.) If you print the forms from the internet, you will need to have the original and a copy for each party named in the case, and an extra copy for yourself. (If the clerk makes copies for you, there is an additional charge.)

    If you use a fictitious business name:
    You have to fill out, sign, and file a form called Fictitious Business Name Declaration (Form #SC-103 ) every time you file a claim. You also have to write your fictitious business statement number and expiration date in the space in the "Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Defendant" (Form #SC-100 ).

    When you type the names of the plaintiff and the defendant:
    Type or print their last name first. Follow the formats below:

    *DBA stands for “Doing Business As”

    For an individual:

    Doe, John
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, CA. 95000
    For a business owned by one person:

    Doe, John
    DBA: Doe's Auto Repair Shop
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, CA. 95000

    DBA stands for "doing business as"
    For partnerships:  
    Doe, John-Partner
    DBA: Doe & Smith Bakery
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, California 95100
    Smith, Max- Partner
    DBA: Doe & Smith Bakery
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, Ca. 95100
    For a corporation:
    Doe Corporation
    Serve: Doe, John-President
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, Ca. 95100
    Doe Corporation
    DBA: Doe & Smith Bakery
    Doe, John - President
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, Ca. 95100
    Doe Corporation
    DBA: Doe & Smith Bakery
    Smith, Sue - Agent for Service
    of Process
    123 Oak St.
    Los Angeles, CA 12345

    Address listed is agent's address,
    not the corporation's address

     
    For someone under 18
    Doe, John -Minor
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, Ca. 95100
    Doe, Jane-Guardian
    111 Main Street
    San Jose, Ca. 95100



    Note: The form called "The Plaintiff’s Claim & Order" to defendant leaves space for two plaintiffs and two defendants. If you need more space, use Form #SC-100a .

    When you name your defendants:

    You have to know their exact names. If you name a company, you need to know what kind of ownership it is (For example, partnership, corporation, sole proprietorship, etc).

    If you get a judgment against a defendant but you wrote the name wrong, you might not be able to collect the money unless you have the judgment changed to say the right name. This can take extra time, trouble and money.

    Make sure you use the right name when you file your claim.

    If your suit is about a car accident, name the driver and the owner of the car that hit you. You don’t have to name both, but you’ll have a better chance of collecting damages.

    Sign your forms:

    If you are the only plaintiff, you have to sign the Plaintiff’s Claim. If there is more than one plaintiff, each plaintiff has to sign.

    If the claim is filed by a business with one owner, the owner has to sign the form.

    If the plaintiff is a corporation, one of the corporate officers (like the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer or Authorized Agent) has to sign the Plaintiff’s Claim form.

    You can’t give someone who is not a party in the case permission to sign the Plaintiff’s Claim.

    If the plaintiff is a minor (Under 18 years old), a parent or guardian has to sign the Plaintiff’s Claim. If the plaintiff is over 14, they should also sign the Plaintiff’s Claim. The plaintiff/guardian has to fill out a form called Petition for Appointment of Guardian ad litem and file that with the Plaintiff’s Claim.

     

  9. What can I expect when I file my claim?

    • Set a hearing date:

      When you file your claim and pay the fee, the clerk will give you a court date. You’ll have your hearing:

      • In 30-40 days if the defendant lives or works in the county;
      • In 30-70 days if the defendant lives or works outside the county.
    • The clerk will give you a copy to “serve”

      The clerk will give you a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Defendant. You have to get someone to serve this copy on the defendant (this is called service of process).

      You have to file proof that this was served before your hearing. File your proof of service form at least 2 days before the hearing. After you file your proof of service, the case will go on the trial calendar for a hearing.

  10. Other papers you have to attach to the claim

    • If your claim is about lawyer-client fees:

      Fill out and file the "Attorney-Client Fee Dispute" (attachment to Plaintiff’s Claims) form #SC-101  with your claim. You can get this form from the clerk’s office.

    • Businesses that are filing a claim and use fictitious business name:

      For example, "Joe Jones doing business as Joe's Garage", also have to file a form called Fictitious Business Name Declaration that says that the business followed California's laws for registering fictitious business names.

    • File a Fee Waiver:

      You have to pay a fee when you file your papers. If you can't pay, you can ask the court to waive those fees. Fill out and file an Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs.

    • You can also ask the clerk for the Information Sheet on Waiver of Court Fees and Costs.

    • If you are suing a government agency:

      First, you have to file a claim with the agency. If they reject your claim, include a copy of the denial letter with your "Plaintiff’s Claim".
  11. More help for before, during and after the hearing...

    Read more information for the plaintiff on these pages:

    You should also read the pages for both the defendant and plaintiff: About Small Claims Court, Alternatives to Lawsuits, Prepare for your Day in Court, Judgment - Judicial Decision, and Property/Money Collection.

    You may also find helpful information on these Small Claims pages: the Small Claims Advisor and Small Claims FAQs.

© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara