Top 5 Tips & Tricks for California Small Claims Success

Transcript of Video

Good morning everyone. This is attorney Brian Russ from Brian Russ Law, Inc.. Today’s video is on the small claims court and small claims process in California. And this is just some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way. One of the areas of law that I used to practice more heavily but not so much anymore was providing assistance to small claims litigants in California. As you may know, in California and attorney can not represent you in small claims court at your initial trial. However, an attorney can represent you in small claims court on an appeal. So to the extent that an attorney can help you, you know, it’s really at the appeal level, a lot of it, I should say an attorney can help you at any stage of the process because they can coach you. It’s one of the services I provide a small claims coaching and advice services.

So before I go any further though, I have to give you a few disclaimers. First disclaimer is that this video does not constitute legal advice. This video is only for informational purposes only. This video is not updated as changes in the law occur. This video should be considered a static informational video only. To the extent you need an attorney to help you with your situation whether you want to sue someone or you are being sued by someone you should retain an attorney to help you with your situation. Again, this video is for informational purposes, and is not for any particular person or particular situation. No attorney client relationship forms by your viewing of this video, I am not your attorney. I am not your attorney, but you’re viewing this video, and if you’d like to retain me, you may be able to. Going on that you should consider this video and advertisement. This video is advertising, I sell my services and I may be able to help you.

Now, on to the bulk of the video, the Small Claims tips and tricks, these are just a list of some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up as I’ve advised people, so I just want to kind of share them. Again, this is general information, hire an attorney to help you with your particular situation.

But the first tip that I have, is that you need to name the right party. So if you are suing someone, if you are suing someone or an entity in small claims court, you need to make sure you name the correct party that you are suing, I see this problem come up a lot. If somebody wants to sue a business, you know, usually businesses, you know they have a “doing business as” a DBA. And then there may be an actual corporation behind the business. So you need to make sure to sue the correct corporate entity. You can find this information generally online at the Secretary of State’s website. Sometimes the business’s website will tell you who the corporation is. A lot of times what I see happening is people you know, especially comes up with contractors or construction, they sue the person actually swinging the hammer, instead of going after the business, you can usually go after both, I always recommend going after as many potential liable parties as possible, you don’t want to leave money on the table, so to speak.

Now, the next step, so say you’ve you figured out the right parties, and you filed in court correctly, the next step is to serve the other party or parties correctly, the law is very clear on what constitutes appropriate service. And one of the key things is that you cannot serve the other party. You as a party as a party litigant cannot sue the other party. So whether you’re the plaintiff, or you’re the defendant, you cannot serve somebody, serve them, court papers, serve in the summons, serve them notices, memos, etc, I should say, declarations, etc. So you need to follow the rules. When it comes to serving either party, I recommend honestly just hiring a process server, they know what to do. These people are professionals, you can tell them what you need to ask them to file the proof of service with the court and don’t even try to figure it out. Just let the process server do it for you.

The next tip I have is really just you know, you need to prepare your evidence cleanly for the judge. You know, one of the issues that I see come up a lot in small claims court is that people think they can just take a stack of papers and give it to the judge and the judge will kind of figure out what’s going on. And that’s really not the case. You know, you judges are smart, they’re great people, and I have nothing against judges, but they have a lot of work to do and the more compelling your argument can be because you put forward your best case, that’s what you should focus on. I recommend, you know, maybe Google or look up how to prepare a small claims trial brief, you know, where you outline the issues, you outline the law, you outline the evidence, you prepare a nice package for the judge to look at. The judge may look at it, and I’m not saying that, you know, it’s going to be perfect, but you know, it’s something that would be helpful for you.

The next thing is, you know, when you get to the Small Claims trial, you should be polite. Be polite in court. You know, the judge will tell you when you can speak, the judge will ask you questions, you know, the Small Claims Tribunal In California, they are not like these TV shows and videos where people get up and start screaming, or, I should, say they can be like that. What I found is that most time the judges do not appreciate that and they want an orderly proceeding where everybody can stay calm and discuss the situation, discuss the situation, discuss the facts, you know, in a calm, collected manner.

And finally, you know, one of the things I recommend is that you understand your appeal rights. In California, in small claims court, the party bringing the case the plaintiff, if they lose on the first trial, they’re done, they have no appeal rights, the case is over. Now, the defendant, so the party who did not bring the case, the party who is defending the case, if they lose, they do have the opportunity to appeal. So before, if you’re the plaintiff, before you start with this, before we start the case, you have to understand that you take one shot. And it may be worth, you know, it having a discussion with an attorney about the different possibilities, different ways to resolve the matter outside of small claims court, you know, it’s one of those trade-offs in small claims court, you get a faster, quicker turnaround time by the court, but you trade off, you know, certain rules of discovery, you know, discovering evidence, you trade off certain rules of that, you know, appeal rights and so on.

So, you know, I recommend you speak with a legal professional to understand your appeal rights in case that’s of concern to you. Okay, that’s it for the video today. You know, my websites on the screen on my phone number if you would like to, you know, talk more about retaining my services to help you with a small claims court. I’d be happy to chat with you about that. All right. Thanks, everyone. Have a good day.

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