If you think the person suing you (“the Plaintiff”) owes you money instead, you can file a countersuit (also known as a defendant’s claim, or counterclaim). This will ask the court to hear both claims on the original hearing date.
Before Your Small Claims Countersuit
You can only file a Defendant’s claim against those who are suing you.
- For example: if you were sued only by the owner of a car over a car accident you were in (and not by the driver of that car), then you could file a defendant’s claim against the owner but not against the driver.
If you want to sue the Plaintiff as part of the claim they filed against you, you have to meet the requirements for the same court.
- For example: if a plaintiff is suing you in a California small claims court (only for disputes under $10,000 in damages) then your countersuit must also be in small claims court.
- That means that you cannot ask for more than $10,000 in your claim. If you are a business or other entity, such as a government entity, you cannot ask for more than $5,000. You cannot have a lawyer represent you in small claims court, but you can talk to a lawyer before and/or after your court trial.
If what you want from the other party does not meet the requirements of the same court you were sued in, then you will need to start a new case instead of a countersuit.
Prepare, file, and then serve your defendant’s claim.
Fill out your court forms to file your countersuit against the Plaintiff:
- You must fill out and file Defendant’s Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court (Form SC-120)
- If there are more than 2 plaintiffs or 2 defendants, also fill out Other Plaintiffs or Defendants (Attachment to Defendant’s Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court) (Form SC-120A)
- If you need more space to describe your claim and what happened, or you need to include witness statements, fill out a Declaration (Form MC-030)
- If you are a business, you may also have to fill out a Fictitious Business Name (Small Claims) (Form SC-103)
After you fill out your forms:
- File your forms at the court where the Plaintiff’s claim was originally filed.
- You may do this in person, by mail, or online. Check with the court where the Plaintiff’s claim was originally filed to see what filing options you may have.
After filing your forms:
- “Serve” your forms to the other party.
- You may do this using a process server, the County’s sheriff, or a person of your choosing who is not part of the case.
- If you received a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim more than 10 days before the trial date, you must serve the plaintiff at least 5 days before the hearing.
- If you received a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim 10 days or fewer before the trial date, you must serve the plaintiff at least 1 day before the hearing.
- The process server must file the Proof of Service (Form SC-104) with the court prior to the hearing.