Find the Right Court to File Your Claim

Every county in California has a small claims court. You have to figure out which county's small claims court is the right court for your claim. You will file your claim in this court. If you file your claim in the wrong court, the court may dismiss your case and you will have to refile in the correct court. If the time to file your case (the statute of limitations) has run out, you may end up losing your case. So it is very important you file in the right court and not lose time.

If you know the right court to use, you are ready to Fill Out Your Court Forms. If you need to figure out which court to file your claim in, talk to the small claims legal advisor.  You will save yourself and the other side a lot of trouble and even money if you carefully choose the court in which you file your claim. The small claims legal advisor can help you do this right.

In general, you can file your claim in the court where the defendant lives or does business.  But there are some exceptions to this rule.  For more help, click on the question below that fits your case:

Keep in mind that the law is complicated and even if you think your case fits into one of these exceptions, it may not. Talk to the small claims legal advisor to make sure you know which court to file your case in.


What if I am suing because of a car accident?
You can file your claim in the county where the accident happened, or in the county where the defendant lives.

What if I am suing because of a contract?
You can file in the county where you signed the contract, where the contract was broken, or where the contract was to be carried out. You can also file where the defendant lived or worked when you signed the contract.

What if I am suing because I am a seller and someone owes me money for a consumer purchase?
You can sue in the county:

  • Where the buyer lives;
  • Where the buyer lived when he or she made the purchase;
  • Where the buyer made the purchase; or
  • Where the item purchased is located.


What if I am suing because I bought something or I paid for a service?
You can file your claim in the county:

  • Where you (the buyer) lives;
  • Where you (the buyer) lived when the item or service was purchased; or
  • Where you (the buyer) bought or paid for the item or service.

You can file in any of these locations if you bought something from a seller as a result of an unsolicited telephone call or e-mail from the seller to you, including situations where you, as the buyer, responded to the seller’s call by phone or e-mail.


What if I am suing my credit card company?
You can file your claim in the county:

  • Where you live;
  • Where you lived when the contract/application for the credit card was signed; or
  • Where you signed the contract/application with the credit card company.

You can file in any of these locations if you entered into a contract with a credit company as a result of an unsolicited telephone call from the company to you, including situations where you, as the buyer, responded to the company’s call by phone or e-mail.

What if none of these questions fits my case or I am not sure what to do?
Get help from the California Department of Consumer Affairs' website.   You can also contact your court's small claims legal advisor for help.

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