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How to Sue a Company: A Comprehensive Guide

by | Aug 16, 2023 | None | 0 comments

Picture this: You are caught in a dispute with a big company. Naturally, you have many questions about taking them to small claims court. Dealing with legal matters may seem complicated and overwhelming. You might think it’s something only law experts can handle. Don’t worry! No matter how scary it may seem, this detailed guide on suing a company in small claims court is here to help you understand the steps and make things more straightforward.

This article aims to help you learn the process, making understanding complex legal terms and the different steps involved easier. These steps include knowing the significance of a demand letter, evaluating your financial claim, being aware of legal deadlines, gathering all the necessary information, finding the right courtroom for your case, calculating the lawsuit costs, correctly identifying the company you are suing, and lastly, learning how to notify the company formally. This guide is not just a manual; it’s your companion as you start this legal journey. Let’s begin by understanding how to sue a company in small claims court.


Before You Enter the Courtroom: The Demand Letter

It is usually better, and sometimes legally required, for you to formally ask the other side (the person you are suing is called the Defendant) to pay before you file a lawsuit. This request is commonly known as a Demand Letter. You may be able to file a lawsuit if the other party does not agree to pay.  This letter offers a chance for the company to respond to your claims before entering a court setting. It’s an opportunity to describe your problem, quantify your damages, and set a deadline for response. More than a formality, the demand letter can be a cost-effective solution to resolve the dispute without stepping foot in a courtroom.



The Size of Your Claim: What Can You Sue For?

To better understand how much you might want to sue for, add the losses you suffered directly related to your dispute. These might include the cost of the product or service and additional expenses you had to cover because of what happened. 

Consider suing there if the amount you ask for falls below your state’s small claims court limit or cap. A small claims court is a special court designed to handle legal disputes involving smaller amounts of money. It provides an accessible and simplified process for individuals, small businesses, or organizations to resolve disputes quickly and without expensive legal representation. In some states, lawyers cannot represent you in small claims court. You must represent yourself. 


Tick-Tock: Time Limits for Filing Your Case

Every legal dispute is subject to a statute of limitations, a countdown clock to file your case. These time frames vary depending on the type of claim and the state where you reside. For example, many U.S. states require you to file a personal injury lawsuit within one year from the date of injury, but some allow two years. You must complete this deadline to be able to sue in court, making it crucial to act in a timely manner.


Gathering Your Tools: What Information Do You Need?

Starting your lawsuit means gathering particular information, similar to how a detective collects clues for a case. The exact name of the company you’re suing is very important, as any mistakes might cause delays or even throw your case out. Equally important is telling your whole story, called your “claim.” Describe the problem in detail by saying when, where, and how it happened. Paying close attention to the details will help, and the judge can clearly understand what happened.

Think of this narrative as the foundation of your case; it’s your chance to show the judge that the company is at fault. Also, collect important papers like contracts, receipts, texts, or emails that support your arguments strongly. Even pictures can be useful evidence if they’re related to the problem. For example, photos can clearly show the issue, like if your claim is about a broken product. It’s also good to list people who can back up your claims. This can help if their words are needed as proof. In small claims courts, it’s allowed to use witnesses to give evidence in your case. To learn more, read about Witnesses in Small Claims Court.

Suing the Right Company: Identifying the Legal Entity and Name

A defendant within a case can be a person, a sole proprietor, or a business. It is important to correctly identify the type because it will help ensure that you hold the correct party responsible. Correctly identifying also helps ensure you can collect the money from the appropriate party if you win the case. 

Once you have identified the right entity type, you will want to use the business’s legal name.  When trying to sue in small claims court, the most common mistake is not writing the proper legal name for a company they are trying to sue when filing a lawsuit and when writing and sending the letter demanding payment.  

Suppose you are having trouble finding the correct legal name check to see if the business is using a “Fictitious” or “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. These are nicknames that a business uses for branding and to interact with its customers. When sole proprietorships do not want to operate under the individual’s name or when a company wants to manage multiple businesses under one registered entity, they will use a DBA. Corporations, LLCs, sole proprietorships, and partnerships can all have DBAs.  

Finally, if you are suing a company in California, you can learn more about identifying the legal entity and name of the businesses.  


Choosing Your Arena: Where to File Your Lawsuit?

Selecting the appropriate court to hear your case is like choosing the right battleground for your fight. “Venue” refers to the specific court which hears your case. “Jurisdiction” refers to the state and county where you file your lawsuit. It is up to the person suing to sue in the proper court. This court is usually determined based on the location of the company headquarters or where the event leading to the dispute or damages occurred.

If you file in the wrong court, you risk moving your case to a different venue or even being dismissed, wasting time and resources. It’s crucial to conduct thorough research to ensure you are knocking on the right courtroom door.

There’s a twist, though. Sometimes, contracts have “venue” or “choice of law” clauses that specify a location for resolving any arising legal disputes. For this reason, reading all contracts linked to your dispute is important. If such a clause exists, it may override the general jurisdiction rules. Legal jargon in contracts can be confusing, so it’s a good idea to seek legal advice if you need clarification.

If you are considering legal action against a company or person based outside your state, read more to prepare properly.

Counting the Cost: How Much is the Filing Fee?

It will cost money to take someone to court. Foremost among these is the filing fee, the entry ticket that allows a court to hear your case. This fee isn’t a flat rate; it fluctuates based on your claim’s size and the specific court’s rules. You could anticipate shelling out somewhere between $30 and $100 for small claims court. “service of process.” (more below).

You can often ask to have some of these fees waived if you have a lower income. If you’re struggling financially, you can request a fee waiver when you file your claim in court. Also, remember that each court has its own special rules and ways of doing things. It’s a good idea to learn about these details before you start.

Knocking on Their Door: Notifying the Company

After you’ve filed your claim, someone must notify the company about the lawsuit, a process known as “service of process.” The methods vary by state but often include sending the papers by certified mail or hiring a sheriff or a professional process server.


In conclusion, suing a company in small claims court is indeed a journey. It’s a process that involves detailed preparation, informed decision-making, and diligent follow-through.

Although the legal landscape may seem complex, equipped with knowledge and guided by patience, you can navigate it effectively. Always remember that professional legal advice can be invaluable.  If you need legal help, contact your state’s Bar Association and ask for an attorney referral.


The quest for justice is never easy, particularly when it comes to getting your money back. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become easier. Quest for Justice’s first app, JusticeDirect, is the only app of its kind designed to support people without lawyers to resolve their disputes and get their money back, both in and out of court. The first step to getting money back is through a letter demanding payment from the other party JusticeDirect offers customizable demand letters for free. If the letter demanding payment does not work, then the next step is taking them to court. JusticeDirect* will guide users every step of the way through the small claims court process by helping them:


  1. Understand the legal process;
  2. Evaluate the pros and cons that come with taking someone to court;
  3. Generate small claims court forms; and,
  4. Avoid common mistakes when filing your forms and serving notice on the other side.
*Currently, JusticeDirect can only help litigants sue in California’s small claims court.

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