This section tells you what to do BEFORE and AFTER your scheduled Small Claims hearing
1. Before the Hearing
- Contact the defendant to talk about your claim. Try to settle without going to court.
- Suggest mediation or agree to try it. Or, see if there is some other informal way to
solve your dispute.
- Try to figure out if you have a good case.
- Does the law support your case?
- Can you prove case?
- Did you miss the deadline to file your claim?
- Did you lose money?
- Can you represent yourself?
- Does the defendant have a good defense?
- How much is your claim for? Figure out the exact amount. If you are suing as an
individual, or as an individual who owns a business (i.e. sole proprietor), you can't get
more than $7,500 in small claims court. If you are suing as a corporation, partnership
or any other type of business other than a sole proprietorship, you are limited to
asking for $5,000. And, you can only get a judgment for the amount of damages you
can prove, even if the defendant doesn't go to court.
- Figure out which court to file your lawsuit in. This is called the venue (location) of the
- File a Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Defendant (SC - 100). If you are a business with a
fictitious name you will also need to file a Fictitious Name Declaration (SC - 103).
- Get someone over the age of 18 not associated with the case to serve your claim on
every defendant. Make sure the defendants get enough notice. File the Proof of
Service (SC - 104) at court before your hearing.
- Prepare your claim. If the defendant files a Defendant’s Claim and Order to Plaintiff (SC
- 120) to be heard at the same time as your claim, prepare your defense for that claim,
- Organize your thoughts,
- Collect evidence,
- Talk to witnesses, etc.
- Make 2 copies of the papers that you want to show the judge.
- Ask your witnesses to write a declaration or go to your hearing.
- Keep talking to the other person. Try to settle the case before your hearing. If you
think more time could help you settle, ask the court to move your hearing to a later
2. After the Hearing
- Get a copy of the Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC - 130) from the court. If you don’t
get a copy in the courtroom at the end of your hearing, the court will mail it to you.
- If you didn’t go to the hearing and the court dismissed your claim, you have 30 days to
file a Notice of Motion to Vacate (Cancel) Judgment (SC - 135). You will have to pay a
- If you won, you have to wait at least 30 days before you can enforce the judgment. If
the defendant doesn’t pay you or challenge the judgment, you can take legal action.
- If the defendant appeals or files a motion to cancel the judgment, you must wait until
the court decides the appeal or motion before you take legal action to enforce the
- After the defendant pays you, you must sign and file a form called Acknowledgment of
Satisfaction of Judgment. It is on the bottom of the back of the Notice of Entry of
Judgment form (SC - 130).
- If you recorded an Abstract of Judgment (EJ-001) with the County Recorder’s Office,
you have to fill out another form called Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (EJ
- 100) and have it notarized.
- If you went to the hearing and the judge ordered you to pay the defendant, you have
30 days to:
- Pay the judgment
- Fill out a Judgment Debtor’s Statement of Assets (SC - 133) and mail it to the
- File a Notice of Appeal (SC - 140) (The whole case will be heard again).
If you do nothing, the defendant can enforce the judgment.
If for any reason you think the judgment is wrong, file a Request to Correct or Vacate
Judgment (SC - 108).
Fresno County Small Claims
and Civil Advisory
a project of the BBB in Partnership with Fresno Superior Court
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