Options When You Are Sued
If you have been sued in small claims court, you have several options:
- You can settle your case before the trial.
You and the plaintiff (the other side) can work out an agreement to settle the case. Your court may have a small claims mediation program that can help you. Or you can talk to the small claims advisor for information. If you settle your case, you have to let the court know. Learn more about small claims mediation.
- You can prove you were sued in the wrong court.
If you think you were sued in the wrong court, you can let the court know and ask the judge to dismiss the claim. Find out if you were sued in the wrong court and get instructions for what to do.
- You can go to your trial and try to win.
Take witnesses, receipts, and evidence that you need to prove your case. Read Going to Court to get information about how to prepare for your trial.
- You can sue the person suing you.
If you believe the plaintiff owes you money, you can file a defendant's claim. Read How to Sue the Person Suing You for information and instructions. There is a deadline for you to do this so act quickly.
- You can agree with the plaintiff’s claim and pay the money.
You can just agree that you owe the money and pay the plaintiff. You can ask the plaintiff to dismiss the case if you pay. If you cannot pay it all at once, you can go to your trial to ask the judge to let you make payments.
- You can do nothing.
If you do nothing and do not go to your trial, you will “default” and the judge will probably enter a default judgment against you. The plaintiff will probably get what he or she is asking for plus any filing fees or other court costs related to the small claims case. If this happens, the plaintiff can legally take your money, wages, and property to pay the judgment.
Figuring Out If you Have Been Sued in the Wrong Court
Every county in California has a small claims court. The person suing you (called "the plaintiff") has to sue you in the right court.
You can ask for your case to be dismissed (or transferred to the proper court location in your county) if you are sued in the wrong court. Write to the court address shown on the claim you received and explain why you want a dismissal. You must also send a copy of your letter to the other side and file a proof of mailing with the court clerk. You can also go to court on the hearing date and ask for your case to be dismissed.
If you need to figure out if you were sued in the wrong court, talk to the small claims advisor. The advisor can help you do this and, if you are sued in the wrong court, can tell you how to let the court know.
Where should a claim be filed?
Usually, the plaintiff can sue you in the county where you live or do business.
But there are other possibilitis depending on the specifics of the claim:
If you are not sure if you were sued in the right court, talk to the small claims advisor for help.
- If you are being sued because of a contract
You can be sued in the county where you signed the contract. You can also be sued where you lived or worked when you signed the contract. And you can be sued where the contract was performed (or was to be performed) or where it was broken.
- If your corporation is being sued
The corporation can be sued where the contract was broken. If the person suing says he or she was hurt, or if his or her property was damaged, the corporation can be sued where that happened. A corporation can also be sued where its office or business is located. But if your corporation is not licensed to do business in California, it cannot appear in court to defend itself, and the other side can ask the court for a judgment in their favor.
- If you are being sued because of a car accident
The plaintiff can sue you in the county where the accident happened or in the county where you live now.
- If the plaintiff (a seller) says you owe them money for a consumer purchase
The plaintiff can sue:
- Where you (the buyer) live;
- Where you (the buyer) lived when you made the purchase;
- Where you (the buyer) made the purchase; or
- Where the item purchased is located.
- If the plaintiff is suing you because you bought something or I paid for a service
The plaintiff can sue in the county:
- Where you (the buyer) live;
- Where you (the buyer) lived when the item or service was purchased;
- Where you (the buyer) bought or paid for the item or service.