If you want to sue the plaintiff as part of the claim he or she filed against you, you have to meet the requirements for small claims court. That means that you cannot ask for more than $10,000 in your claim. If you are a business or other entity (like a government entity) you cannot ask for more than $5,000. And you cannot have a lawyer represent you in court. But you can talk to a lawyer before or after your court trial.
Note: You can only file a defendant's claim against those who have sued you. For example, if you were only sued by the owner of a car for a car accident you were in (and not by the driver of that car), then you cannot file a defendant's claim against both the owner and the driver. AND, there is an exception to the $10,000 limit you should keep in mind: If you are suing the plaintiff for bodily injuries that were the result of a car accident, and the plaintiff has car insurance that includes a "duty to defend," you can only file a claim for a maximum of $7,500.
If you decide to file a defendant’s claim, there are 3 steps you must take before your court hearing.
Before you start with step 1, think about whether you want to ask the plaintiff to pay you the money you claim he or she owes you. This is a “demand for payment,” and you can do it in person, by phone, or in writing. It is NOT required for a defendant’s claim, but you can do it if you would like.
Then, you are ready to follow the steps below. Click on each step for more information.
To prepare your defendant's claim, you need to fill out court forms that include a Defendant's Claim (Form SC-120). These forms tell the court and the plaintiff (the person or business you are suing back) about your claim.
To fill out your papers:
After you finish your court forms, you must give your forms to the clerk of the court to file your defendant's claim.
Follow these steps to file your claim:
"Service" is when someone—NOT you or anyone else listed in this case—gives a copy of your court papers to the person, business, or public entity you are filing a defendant's claim against. Service lets the other side know:
There are also 2 court forms that can help you understand service in your small claims case and make sure you follow the right steps. Read:
Serve Your Papers Before the Deadline
The deadline you have to serve your Defendant's Claim (Form SC-120) depends on when you were served with the Plaintiff's Claim (Form SC-100):
There are 3 different ways to serve a Defendant's Claim in a small claims case:
Ask your server to personally "serve" (give) a copy of your court papers to the plaintiff, or to the agent legally authorized to accept court papers for the plaintiff. Tell the server to:
Your server also has to:
But this type of service can also be very unreliable. The court will probably not accept it and will make you serve again (with personal or substituted service) if:
Serve the right person
If you are filing a Defendant's Claim against a person (or people) — not a business or public entity — serve each person you are suing. For example, if you were in a car accident and you are filing a Defendant's Claim against the owner and the driver of the car, you must serve both people.
If you are filing a Defendant's Claim against a business or public entity, click on a topic below:
File a Proof of Service in court
Once your server has served the plaintiff with a copy of your Defendant’s Claim, your server has to fill out a Proof of Service (Small Claims) (Form SC-104), for each person, business, or public entity served. The proof of service tells the court who was served and when, where, and how they were served. If any of the plaintiffs were served by substituted service, your server MUST also fill out and sign the Proof of Mailing (Substituted Service) (Form SC-104A) for the second step of mailing a copy of the Defendant's Claim.
When the server fills out and signs the Proof of Service, you must file it with the court before your court date (at least 5 days before), or if you do not have time, take the proof of service to your trial.
If you do not have a Proof of Service for each person served, or if the Proof of Service is not filled out correctly, the judge may not be able to hear your defendant’s claim. Have the small claims advisor look over the proof of service to make sure it was filled out correctly.
After you serve the plaintiff and file your Proof of Service with the court, you should get ready to Go to Court.