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Small Claims Division

The small claims court is a special court in which disputes are resolved inexpensively and quickly. The rules are simple. The hearing is informal. Attorneys are not allowed. (However, you may ask your lawyer for advice before you go to small claims court.)

Small Claims cases in Santa Clara County are heard in the Downtown Superior Court (DTS). Effective Oct. 6, 2014: See Standing Order Re: Proper Courthouse for Filing Small Claims and Civil Actions.

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 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 it is the plaintiff's opportunity to ask questions.

The judge will usually decide on a verdict at the end of the trial.

As an individual you can use Small Claims Court if your claim is for $12,500 or less. If you are an individual who owns a business (i.e. sole proprietor) and do business under a fictitious business name, you are considered to be an "individual" in Small Claims Court. For example, if you are a plumber doing business as ABC Plumbing and want to sue a customer who has not paid you, you can file a claim for up to $12,500. If your business is a corporation, partnership or anything other than a sole proprietorship, your maximum claim amount is $6,250.

Important note: a claimant can't file more than two small claims court actions for more than $2,500 anywhere in this state during any calendar year. For example, if you file a claim for $3,000 in February of one year, and another claim for $4,000 in the following month, you can't file another claim for more than $2,500 in any small claims court until January 1 of the next calendar year. However, you can still file as many claims as you wish for $2,500 or less.

Small Claims Resources

Our Small Claims Self-Help pages have extensive information on filing, collecting, and mediation options, as well as information on the difference between Civil Court and Small Claims Court.

You can contact the Small Claims Advisor if you have a specific question.

Calendar and case information for Small Claims cases (as well as other case types) is available from the Court's Case Information Portal.

Our Court has prepared a YouTube video on Small Claims mediation - visit our Self-Help Videos page.

The State of California has a Small Claims Self-Help website that you may find useful.

Local Small Claims Rules of Court

Small Claims Local Rules of Court are part of the Court's Civil Local Rules of Court.

In the Civil local rules, Rule 19 contains the following Small Claims information:

  • Proper courthouse for filing a Small Claims action
  • Date, time, and place for trial
  • Service of claims
  • Settlement before hearing
  • Dismissal for failure to appear at hearing
  • Appeal

Click for printable (PDF) version of all Local Civil Rules of Court to search for Rule 19 Small Claims Actions.

For extensive information for both Plaintiff and Defendant, see the Small Claims Self Help section of this website, containing links to videos, checklists, forms, and information on how to contact the Court's Small Claims Advisor.