The rules are simple. The hearing is informal. Attorneys are not allowed. (However, you may ask an attorney for advice before you go to Small Claims Court.)
The person who files the lawsuit is the plaintiff, and the person being sued is the defendant. The plaintiff presents his or her side of the story to the Commissioner or Judge. Witnesses or documents supporting the claim can also be presented.
The defendant is allowed to ask questions of anyone who testifies for the plaintiff. The defendant then presents his or her side of the case and then it is the plaintiff’s opportunity to ask questions.
The Commissioner or Judge will make a decision at the end of the trial, either in Court or in writing if the matter is taken under submission.
The cases are limited to disputes up to $5,000 for a business, or $7,500 for an individual.
You are not an “individual” in Small Claims Court if the claim you are filing relates to a business you own or operate.
Important note: Certain claimants cannot file more than two Small Claims Court actions for more than $2,500 anywhere in the State of California during any calendar year. However, a claimant may file any number of claims for $2,500 or less.
On the day of your hearing, the Court may recommend that you and the other party attend a mediation session in order to bring your case to a successful resolution.
Self-Help Small Claims
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Civil / Small Claims Mediation Services
Mediation is an opportunity to settle your case on the day set for court trial. A trained mediator will meet with both parties, helping them to achieve a resolution that is agreeable to both sides and which helps each side feel that they have been heard.
The Court encourages people to take advantage of the free mediation services being offered at the Tuolumne Superior Court.
For more information please go to the Judicial Council of California Small Claims Center.
Forms and Instructions can be located here.