JusticeDirect logo
If you are looking for a way to settle a dispute without paying expensive attorney fees, you may want to consider filing a small claims court case in Los Angeles (LA) County. Small Claims Court is a division of the California Superior Court that handles civil disputes between individuals and businesses with damages of $10,000 or less. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of how Small Claims Court works in LA County, CA.

What is a Small Claim Case?

A small claims case is a legal proceeding filed in a local court of law. It is not an actual court but a division within the regular court system that handles minor disputes between parties. This can include unpaid debts, personal injuries, or damaged property. A small claims case differs from other types of lawsuits because it has much lower filing fees and limits on how much money can be awarded at the end of the trial.
Small claims cases are less formal than regular civil lawsuits. They are heard at the district level instead of the county level by judges who do not require attorneys to present evidence or represent their clients during trials (although you may choose to hire one).
You must file your protest within six months after receiving any written correspondence about damages incurred by your opponent; after this period expires, it becomes impossible for you to receive compensation for any damage done by them before then unless there was some outside intervention like fraud committed by someone else involved with this dispute which forced action forward against them earlier than expected time frame would allow.

How Does Small Claims Court Work?

The small claims court handles disputes between citizens who cannot resolve their issues through other means. Attorney representation for parties in a Small Claims action is only permitted if both parties consent to it. There are no jury trials, instead, it’s a simplified process where the plaintiff and defendant each offer their side of the case, then go home with a decision from the judge.

Sending a Demanding Letter

Did you know you have one more option before small claims court? Before filing a claim, you can send a letter demanding payment. This often allows people to resolve the dispute outside of court and avoids the time and fees associated with court. If you haven’t tried this option yet, read more about how to write an effective demand letter and how best to send it to the person who owes you money. Alternatively, you can use tools such as JusticeDirect to generate and send a custom demand letter for free and leave the headache out of it!

Filing Your Claim

Generally, to file a claim, you must first complete SC-100 to describe the dispute and the damages sought. This paperwork can be filed with the court clerk, who will then review the complaint and assign it to a judge. 


Filing fees are based on the value of your claim and courts may charge different filing costs. 
Claim Amount Filing Fee
$0 – $1500 $30
$1,500.01- $5000 $50
$5,000.01- $10,000 * $75
Frequent Filer ** $100
*Only individuals, not businesses, can sue for this amount. **If you file more than 12 cases in a 12-month period, you must pay a $100 filing fee. Additional fees may apply for extra copies of documents.

Serving the Defendant

Once you have filed your complaint, you will need to serve the defendant with a copy. This makes them aware that a case has been filed against them so they have to respond accordingly and show up to the hearing.
You have different options when serving the defendant, and the options may differ depending on what is allowable by your county court. Some of the options may have a fee, but if you win the case, it will become reimbursable by the other party.
You may be able to serve through:
  • A professional process service
  • Certified mail
  • County’s sheriff/marshall
You may also have a friend/family member serve the complaint if it’s allowed by the court. Most importantly, you cannot do it yourself if you are a party in the case.

The Court Hearing

After filing the complaint, the court will schedule a hearing for the case. It will typically be several weeks to months from the date of filing.
Both parties will have the opportunity to present their case and any evidence they have to support their claims. The judge will listen to both sides and make a decision based on the law and the evidence presented.

Enforcing the Judgment

If the judge rules in your favor, you will be awarded a judgment that the defendant will have to pay, this is a formal way for the court to indicate that the defendant now owes you money. The court will not be paying you directly. If the defendant does not pay the judgment voluntarily, you may “collect” on the judgment, which may include garnishing the defendant’s wages or seizing their assets.


Is there a limit to how much money you can get in Los Angeles’s small claims court?

  • Individuals or businesses represented by an individual: $10,000
  • Businesses: $5,000
If you filed more than two cases in the same calendar year, you can only sue for $2,500 or less in subsequent cases.

How do I start?

The filing of a small claims complaint by the plaintiff (the party suing) initiates a small claims litigation. The plaintiff’s justifications for the claim against the defendant must be briefly stated in the complaint, which must be visible (the person being sued).


What is the deadline for filing your claim?

In California, cases must be filed within a certain amount of time called a statute of limitation. In each case, you must calculate the time limit from the date the contract was broken or the date the damage/injury/fraud occurred.
  • Property Damage – 2 Years
  • Oral Contracts – 3 Years
  • Written Agreements – 6 Years

What happens if you don’t show up for Los Angeles Small Claims Court?

If the plaintiff doesn’t appear at the hearing and doesn’t notify the court of the reason for the absence, the court has several options. The judge may:
  • Reschedule the case
  • Dismiss the case with prejudice
  • Dismiss the case without prejudice
  • If the defendant appears, the judge may enter a judgment against you after considering the defendant’s evidence.
To learn more about how to request for dismissal after filing your claim in California read here.
%d bloggers like this: