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FAQ

Is there a small claims court PDF for California that can be Filled out and Saved online or downloaded?
I believe you are asking whether forms required for small claims actions are available online.The answer is "yes" - start at http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhel... and follow links from there.
I plan to represent myself in court and consider myself extremely versatile so I should be able to win it. However, if you could give me one piece of advice, what would it be?
You’re not going to win on a single piece of advice. Here’s the bare minimum you’re going to need to do if you want to win.First, Keep in mind that if the other party has legal counsel, the counsel is going to be way more experienced than you and will be able to anticipate your every move. The easiest way for a pro se litigant to lose is to think that he can outsmart the system or get cute. If you try making any sort of “clever” arguments or start arguing about fairness or justice or the Constitution or the yellow frills on the flag, I guarantee that opposing counsel will make sure your efforts will backfire.Second, Look up the applicable law that you are being accused of (if you’re a defendant) or accusing someone else of (if you’re a plaintiff). If it’s an actual statute number, go to a law library (either the courthouse or local law school will have libraries you can use for free) and find the actual book that the statute appears in. Try to get a book published by either West Publishing or Lexis. After the statute, there is a section called “Notes of Decisions.” Read the entire thing from beginning to end. Any time there’s a note that applies to your case, write down the note, followed by the full case cite that comes after the note. It’s going to look something like Plaintiff v. Defendant, 345 A.2d 567, 570–71 (Me. 2014).Once you have all the cases that apply, go to scholar.google.com, click “case law,” and type in each case that you wrote down. Read the entire case from beginning to end. You’ll need to do something called “briefing,” which means reading through the case, writing down the ultimate “holding” of the case (what that judge said the law is - it will be similar to your note), writing down a couple of the important facts, and writing down who won the case and why. Once you’ve briefed all the cases, go through the cases and compare them to your own case. If you’re the defendant and the defendant won, why was that defendant similar to you? If you’re the defendant and the plaintiff in the case won, why were the facts in that case different, such that the legal holding doesn’t apply?Once you’ve reviewed all the cases, you need to organize them. Go back to the statute and write down all the elements of the law. If you’re not sure what the elements are, Google “what are the elements of _______ in _______?” That’s the order you want to argue your case in.Third, Once you’re at trial, listen very carefully to what the opposing counsel says. This is especially important if you’re the defendant. If the plaintiff’s counsel lays out exactly why you should be held liable, and you respond with “your honor, this isn’t fair because I didn’t mean to,” you’re going to lose. You need to go through the actual arguments that the plaintiff’s counsel makes and explain to the judge why other court cases show why he is wrong. Your opinions don’t matter. (It’s nothing personal—I’m a lawyer, and my opinions don’t matter either.) If you’re the plaintiff, your job is even tougher because you have the burden of proof. If you don’t argue every single element of the case, all the defense counsel has to say is “your honor, the plaintiff didn’t establish element three” and you lose the entire case.If this is a bigger case, there will be significant discovery first. That means both sides have to give evidence to the other side. Don’t skimp on evidence. If you don’t present evidence in discovery, you can’t use it in trial. If you hide bad evidence and the other side knows you hid evidence, the opposing counsel can use that as a basis for you to lose the case as a sanction. Experienced lawyers can “record objections” to discovery to protect themselves from handing over certain evidence, but you’re not an experienced lawyer, so you don’t know the rules. It’s not worth the risk for you to hold back, so just hand over everything. When you ask for evidence, make sure you ask for everything you can possibly think of. If you don’t ask for evidence, the other side doesn’t have to give it to you.Final note—don’t count on having any witnesses. There are so many rules to what you can ask a witness, you can’t hope to learn them all before trial. If you try examining a witness without legal help, the opposing counsel is going to be objecting left and right to everything you ask. Unless you just say “I would like this witness to testify in the narrative” and let them talk, don’t bother. And if you do let them testify in the narrative, expect opposing counsel to accuse you of coaching the witness. Also, every witness you put on the stand is going to get absolutely shredded by opposing counsel, another reason why it’s not worth the risk. You’re just going to need to have all of the documents authenticated in advance (you’ll need to google how to do that), ask for a bench trial, and just do your best explaining the case to the judge. If you’re the defendant and the plaintiff demands a jury, negotiate anything you can to get the plaintiff to agree to a bench trial—judges tend to be sympathetic towards pro se litigants, juries aren’t.Good luck! It’s a lot of work, especially if you don’t have legal training, but the secret to winning a case is not being “versatile,” but being prepared. You can’t just make things up on the day, because you need legal authority (case law) and factual authority (case law). And, statistically speaking, you’re still almost definitely going to lose. Which makes all that work even more important.
What should I do if landlords refused to repay a security deposit?
I successfully sued my landlord in small claims several years ago for failing to return my security deposit. I won and my landlord had to pay me the deposit plus a few extra hundred dollars as a bad faith penalty.To prepare for my case, I watched hours upon hours of "The People's Court" -- America's beloved court show. I kid you not. I think the biggest blunder the plaintiffs made on the show was that they failed to show how the defendant violated a contract or a broke a law. Likewise, defendants usually countersued for no legitimate legal reason. Of course, the show could purposefully select people who sue solely out of anger and an insatiable thirst for revenge. It's TV after all. The more irrational people are, the better.My advice: do your homework on the relevant laws. I did extensive online research on landlord-tenant laws in California. I wrote a brief summary stating the exact civil codes that my landlord violated and even their respective numbers. I also made notes of all of calls and letters sent to Mrs. Loser Landlord. Every time I called her, she said the check was in the mail. I even sent a self-addressed stamped envelope and followed up with her to make sure she received it. I showed up to court armed with evidence and the law on my side.Mrs. Landlord brought her two adult daughters who contradicted each other's stories about why they didn't return my deposit. Mrs. Landlord said my apartment needed extra cleaning because of my cat (RIP Floydy) while one of her daughters said they didn't know where to send it. Mrs. Landlord claims she knew landlord-tenant laws but she clearly didn't follow the rules. The law states landlords must send tenants an itemized list of how the deposit was spent within 21 days of their departure or else they forfeit their right to keep any of the deposit. If the landlord doesn’t know your new address, s/he can send it to the old address and the post office will forward it to your new address.The case took no more than 10 minutes for the judge to determine that the landlord owed me the deposit.My Tip for Going to Small Claims CourtWhile waiting for my case to be called in court, I watched the judge dismiss one case after another because of the second biggest blunder: failing to fill out forms correctly or not following legal codes. For example, a couple sued a store. They listed the manager as the plaintiff instead of the business. The manager may be the one who goes to court to represent the store but he shouldn't have been the named plaintiff. They had to resubmit their application.
How do claims and counterclaims differ from each other and how are they made?
Rules about how you litigate in Small Claims Court vary so you will have to go look up the rules for your state. You can talk to a lawyer in your state about it, but typically, you cannot bring a lawyer to small claims court. I do not know whether that is true in your state though. It is true in Illinois.A claim is a statement in a complaint, the document that starts eighth lawsuit, that states what is called a cause of action, something illegal that the other person (the defendant) has done to you, ideally with reference to what the law in question forbids. “He negligently hit my car, causing me $3000 in property damages to repair it.” That is a claim for negligence. Typically you would need a few more specifics in terms of when and where and how, not a novel, just a few sentences.When you file a complaint, which has the names of the parties and your claims as well as other things that you will find listed in whatever your state provides to small claims or pro se litiganets about what to has to contain, you typically get a number from the clerk and fill out a thing called a summons, telling the person to come to court to admit or defend himself.You have the complaint and the summons “served” on the person. In a regular lawsuit, you might hire the sheriff to do this or a process server, in Illinois, and I imagine most states, a party, that's what you now are, a plaintiff, cannot do this himself.I don't know about small claims court service. You have to look up the rules. The rules for service are specific. And you have to look up those as well and follow them, or it doesn't count as suing them. They may be different for small claims court.A complaint typically calls for an answer, a document that has to be filed in a certain period in which The defendant replies to the allegations made in the complaint, admitting them, denying them, or saying he doesn't know (In effect denying them). A counterclaim is a claim made in an answer. When the defendant answers, he can raise any legal issues he has with you, and if the issues came out of the same situation that gave rise to the complaint, he typically must do so in the answer or they are “waived” and cannot be raised. “"When I talked to him about the collision, he punched me in the face without any justification.” That states a counterclaim for battery. Typically you can bring any claim you have against someone who sees you as a counterclaim, but normally if the counter claim arises from the same situation as the claim, you have to bring it in the answer.If the other side does not answer, assuming an answer as required, you may be entitled to what is called a default judgment, which means you win because they didn't answer or defend. Statements not answered or if the other side does not answer, assuming an answer as required, you may be entitled to what is called a default judgment, which means you win because they didn't answer or defend. Statements not answered in time admitted, at least in regular court. To get a default, you have to move or ask for one. then you have to collect the money. There are rules for that too.Before you sue anybody for anything it is worth making sure that they do have the money to pay you because otherwise it is a waste of your time winning a judgment against somebody who is broke.Small claims court typically has a low damages limit, I believe $3000 in Illinois, similarly low elsewhere. Its procedures are streamlined and designed for people suing on their own without lawyers, since lawyers are often forbidden to practice in small claims court, although of course you can consult a lawyer before you sue or do a particular thing in the court. You just cannot bring them into the court to argue for you.You should expect to pay a lawyer for his or her services whether or not they come into court, unless they are helpful or a friend. Legal aid may also be willing to assist if you are poor, and the Bar Association that sometimes provides free advice for a short period. There are also guides available from the clerk, typically available online, about how to sue in small claims court or how to defend.The procedure in small claims court is deliberately simplified as a rule, without all the bells and whistles of a regular lawsuit. The point is to get litigants without lawyers in front of a judge to decide a small, simple, low dollar amount matter find out the rules, and follow them.I've never used to small claims court myself ( I can use it even though I'm a lawyer, but not with a lawyer to assist me) or been asked to help anybody with it, but a family member in California was able to resolve a dispute about a lemon car using only small claims court with minimal expense and fuss.
How do I sue someone in small claims court for not returning a security deposit on an apartment?
I did this in Connecticut. I'm not a lawyer and certainly not a landlord/tenant expert, but I'll tell you my experience, which might help.The place was sparkling when I left. A few days after I vacated, the LL left the country without telling me for a few months after I moved out, and then took a couple weeks to return the deposit even once he got back. I sued him for return of the security deposit, plus the extra damages (equal to the whole security deposit) that CT provides for a late return. I was pissed off enough with the LL that I pursued the suit even after he voluntarily returned the deposit, and I won a judgment for the extra statutory damages plus court costs.Here's what I did:* First, I tried calling, to see if we could sort out the problem. He didn't respond because he was out of the country (though I didn't know that at the time).* Next, I sent him letters demanding the security deposit, reminding him of my forwarding address, and threatening legal action. I kept a copy for myself, hand-delivered a copy to his business (which is where I had sent my rent checks), and sent both first-class and certified copies both to his business address and to what I believed to be his home address (based on an Internet search). I kept the certified mail receipts. I might have also posted a copy on my old apartment's door, which faced the street.* Once he got back to town but still gave me the run-around about the deposit, I filed suit. To do that, I filled out the appropriate complaint form (JD-CV-40), and took it to the clerk at the courthouse where the website told me to go, and the clerk put it on the small claims docket of Geographic Area #20. (CT's venue statutes are a real mess. I just reviewed them, and I believe this was correct. In any event, my LL has now forfeited any objection he might have had to the venue.) I kept my receipts from the court filing so that I could claim them later from the LL.* Then, I reviewed my options for serving him. Either I or the court clerk (I can't remember) sent him a copy by certified mail with return receipt to his business address.* While waiting for the court date, I got my records in order, including: a copy of each check I had ever paid to him, especially the first one for the security deposit, my lease, which recited the rent and security amounts (and I think also confirmed that he had received the deposit initially), and copies of all my correspondence with him and the mailing receipts.* I also went to the Small Claims Court to watch proceedings for a couple hours one day, just so that I'd be comfortable with the surroundings and have some idea what would be expected of me.* On the court date, he didn't show up. He may have falsely assumed that I had dropped the suit after he returned my deposit. In any case, the magistrate called me, and it was very quick. I was sworn in, she read out the description of the case from my complaint and asked me whether it was accurate, I said that the security deposit had been returned, so I was only seeking the extra statutory damages plus court costs. I think she also asked how much the court costs had been. And then she entered judgment for me. (Even if he had shown up, I'm sure I would have won. I knew the relevant law, had my facts straight, and was in a frame of mind to be polite and responsive to the judge. That goes a long way in Small Claims.)* Either that day or some time shortly thereafter, I got some kind of official record of the judgment.* Collection has been hard. (To be fair, though, I haven't put much effort into it because I'm largely satisfied with just getting my deposit back.) Not too long after the judgment, he either closed or sold his business, and he lost his home to foreclosure. He also divorced. Not a good year for him. Some time later, he moved out to Northern California, and I don't know where he is now. I've been considering calling up a collections person to see if they might be able to track him down.* The one asset I know about is the condo unit that I rented. I knew he still owned the place because I looked up the unit in the town's property records on its website. (This would be with the county rather than the town in most states.) So, I drew up a document with the requisite information, and filed it with the property clerk. In theory, I could now foreclose on the apartment, but I suspect the unit may be underwater with a mortgage that takes precedence over my lien. Instead, I'm hoping that when it gets above water again and he wants to sell, he'll want to pay me once he finds that no buyer wants the property with a clouded title.* Also, every great once in a while, I check on the websites of the Bankruptcy Courts of Connecticut and the Northern District of California to see whether he's filed for bankruptcy. If he were to file for bankruptcy, I might want to file a claim.So, some key points to think about and find out are:* Is there any way at all to get the deposit back without going to court? Going to court takes a long time, is a hassle, and in the end it might be hard to collect on a judgment.* Basic facts about the LL. Address, phone number. In some states, it might be necessary to know whether he's military. And once it comes time to execute a judgment, as much as possible about his property and financial affairs.* The substantive law: What are you entitled to and why? What defenses might the LL bring up? This may require looking at the statute, that's how I discovered that I was entitled to extra damages. If you have some special situation, is there relevant case law? (This might be worth hiring a lawyer to review.) If you know where your deposit is being held, is there any process to attach the bank account before the court date?* Does your lease say anything that might affect what you're entitled to? (But also consider that some states might not give effect to some kinds of clauses that run in favor of the landlord.)* What evidence do you need to assemble in order to prove the facts that you need to prove? Examples: Evidence that you paid a deposit in the first place, and that you left the apartment in good shape. What sort of evidence will be admissible? (It seems like every episode of People's Court, some litigant tries to tell the judge that so-and-so would testify that such-and-such happened, but couldn't come to court. The response is always: too bad, that's not evidence.)* Which court to file in? Which type ‡ small claims, a special housing court, the general civil court? Which location? I'd start out by looking at a page like Wisconsin Court System - self-help law center.* How do you file a suit in that court? How must you inform the LL once you've filed?* Are you allowed to bring a lawyer? If so, is the claim big enough, complex enough, and likely enough to be recoverable that it would make sense? (In my case, my claim was very straight-forward, wasn't very big, and was probably only moderately collectable, so it didn't make sense to get a lawyer.)
What is it like to file a case at a small claims court in California?
Its actually fairly easy. There is a website http://cacourts.gov which provides a lot of information on small claims Court. There are three forms you will need to complete to begin, a summons, a claim or complaint, and a Proof of Service. Make sure you have the correct names and addresses of your Defendants and try to keep the wording in your claim simple and easy to read and understand. Make sure you attach all the documentary or photographic evidence you have. The filing fee is approximately $50 to $100, then it has to be served ( handed to or dropped near) the defendants. The person who serves the Defendants must complete and file a Proof of Service. Appear on your trial date respectfully dressed. Have a six or seven point script and say “Yes Your Honor” to show the Court respect. Treat everyone including your adversary with respect, even if they don't. Know what your adversary is going to say and prepare your reply to that. When you have completed say “"Thank you Your Honor” .Hopefully you've proven your case and have won. Good Luck.
How much does it cost to bring a company to a small claims court in California?
Hello,I’m Chris, the Co-Founder and CTO of SueYa.com! We are an online business where you can start your California small claims, even against businesses!To quickly answer the question: the cost varies based on how much you are filing for.We have an excellent article linked below on our website here that states the filing fees in California.Why Should I Ask about Court Costs? | SueYa.com
How can you get your money after winning in small claims court?
First you simply start by asking the person to pay. Best to do this in writing with a certified letter. If the person does not have the money, see if you can work out a payment plan. Get the plan in writing and make sure the person signs it.If the person refuses to pay, there are other steps you can take.  Various states have various rules, but you are essentially seeking to enforce the judgment. The first thing to do, if the person refuses to pay, is normally to take him back to court. How you manage this varies by state. In some states, there are options the court can help you take advantage of.In some states, you can get an earnings with holding order. Normally called a wage attachment.  In other  states, such as Pennsylvania, this is not generally possible. But when  it is possible, you essentially get a payment every time the person gets  paidYou can seek to put a lien on the person's property, which means if the house, for example, is sold, you have some rights.In some states, you can get the person's driver's license suspended until he pays. That often helps you get paid pretty quickly.You might hire a debt collector, but this can be expensive. You also want to make sure you hire someone who knows the law and acts appropriately.In most cases, if you have to take  any of these steps, you can seek the additional cost from the person  against whom you have the judgment.These are just some of the options. You need to look specifically in your state to see what is available to you. If you call the small claim's court where you won, there might be some form that provides information about what you can do to collect the debt.Be careful you always follow the law. Failure to do so can cause a lot of problems and can even be criminal in some cases.