Document

Report
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Small Claims Court
Review for
Volunteer Attorneys

Gary M. Baum

Law Offices of Gary M. Baum

[email protected]
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Purpose of Small Claims Court
 Small
Claims Court is designed for less formal and
smaller disputes.
 Decisions
are made by Commissioners or
Temporary Judges.
 Typically,
disputes.
Small Claims Court is used for money
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Jurisdiction
 $10,000
is the general ceiling for claims.
A
business may not file a claim for more than
$5000.
 If
a claim is for more than $10,000 and the filing is
made in Small Claims Court, then the amount over
$10,000 is waived.
 Claims
for automobile personal injury are limited
to $7500.
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Service
 Service
must be done properly.
 Personal
service is preferable, but cannot be done
by the plaintiff. The person serving must be over
18 years old.
 Client
may hire someone to serve the claim.
 Certified
mail is a cheaper alternative.
 Substituted
service is possible.
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Venue
A
claim should be filed in the County where the
Defendant resides.
 It
may be filed where the Defendant’s business is
located or where the contract was to be
performed.
 Cases
in South County should be filed in Morgan
Hill.
 Cases
in North County should be filed in Palo Alto.
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Tips for the Plaintiff
 Arrive
at least ½ hour early to park and get
through security.
 Attempt
to settle with the Defendant if at all
possible.
 Bring
 Give
 Live
3 copies of all documentation.
the Defendant a copy of all documents.
witnesses are always better than declarations.
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Tips for Defendants
 The
same tips as apply for Plaintiffs, apply here.
 Dress
nicely and wear clean clothing.
 Bring
in an interpreter with them, if necessary. The
interpreter should not be a witness.
 Be
prepared to briefly explain their side of the
story.
 Bring
any evidence for the Commissioner to
consider.
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Defaults
 Either
side may default. For Defendant, ask that
the case be dismissed with prejudice.
A
default can only be taken if service was proper.
 For
Plaintiff they will need to prove up the value of
their case.
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Special Circumstances

A contractor may only sue for $500 or more if he or she is
licensed. Bring a copy of the license to Court.

No license, no case and the case will be dismissed.

Note: car repair facilities must be licensed as well and they
should take a copy of their license to Court.
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Landlord Tenant Disputes
 Landlord
tenant disputes are one of the most
common filings in small claims court.
 General Tips:
 Use
photographs or live witnesses.
 Security
deposits are capped at two times the
monthly rent for unfurnished apartments and three
times the monthly rent for furnished apartments.
 There
is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit.
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Landlord Tenant Disputes (con’t.)

Most disputes are about security deposits.

The landlord bears the burden of proof in these cases.

Deposits may be withheld for cleaning, actual damage,
alterations to the unit or unpaid rent or utility obligations.

Deposits may not be withheld for normal wear and tear.

For example, the life of a carpet is generally expected to be 5
years.

The landlord must provide receipts for all amounts withheld.
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Landlord Tenant Disputes (con’t.)

The landlord must provide a full accounting and a refund of
the remaining deposit within 21 days of the termination of
tenancy.

Receipts or a written summary if the work was performed by
the landlord is required for all withheld amounts in excess of
$125.

Failure to provide the summary and funds within 21 days may
result in a penalty of up to twice the deposit under Civil
Code 1950.5.
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Collecting Judgments

Winning is only the first step. Collecting can be the hard
part.

The judgment is stayed for 30 days after entry.

If the judgment is for $750 or more involving a motor vehicle
accident, the Plaintiff can file with the DMV which will affect
the Defendant’s license.

Writs of Execution or wage garnishment are also available.

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