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Small Claims Court

How to file in small claims court in California

Updated July 18th 2022

5 min read

In California, you will need to fill out the SC-100 form and pay the filing fee. To file, you’ll need to know how much the defendant owes you, have tried to resolve the dispute out of court, and know the courthouse where you are allowed to file.

How to file in small claims court in California

 How to file in small claims court in California

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Thomas C.

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Table of contents

In California, you will need to fill out the SC-100 form and pay the filing fee. To file, you’ll need to know how much the defendant owes you, have tried to resolve the dispute out of court, and know the courthouse where you are allowed to file.

In this guide, we'll walk you through how to answer the questions on the SC-100 so that you have the best chance of getting your case accepted by the court.

How do I know where to file?

Section 5 on page 3 of the SC-100 tells you how the courthouse knows you’re allowed to file with them. You’ll have to check one of the provided boxes, but although they are clear about the rules for checking a box, they leave one of the biggest components out: how the areas courts can hear cases from are divided.


Different courthouses have strict limits on the cases they hear. These limits start at the county level, but the areas can be divided even further.

The simplest answer is to file wherever the person you’re suing currently lives. Look up the county they live in and take note of their zip code.

Once you have the zip code and the county, courthouses have online tools and helplines that you can use to learn if you’ve chosen correctly.

You can file in any courthouse whose area (their “jurisdiction” ) lets you check any of the following boxes:

**You can check box A if the courthouse’s area includes: **

Where the defendant lives or does business Where your (the plaintiff’s) property was damaged Where you were injured Where a contract (written or spoken) was made, signed, performed, or broken (check box a) Where the defendant lived or did business when the contract was made

You can check box B if:

..the contract is about an offer or contract for personal, family, or households goods, services, or loans and the courthouse’s area includes:

  • Where the buyer or lessee signed the contract
  • Where the buyer or lessee lives now
  • Where the buyer or lessee lived when the contract was made

You can check box C if the claim is about a retail installment contract in the courthouse’s area:

  • Where the buyer signed the contract
  • Where the buyer lives now
  • Where the buyer lived at the time the contract was made You can check box D if the courthouse’s area includes:

If the claim is about a vehicle finance sale:

  • Where the buyer signed the contract
  • Where the buyer lives now
  • Where the buyer lived when the contract was made
  • Where the vehicle is permanently kept

No matter which court in California you file in, you will have to use the same SC-100 form.

What do I have to fill out on the SC-100?

Filling out the SC-100 is tricky. Pay close attention.

The form has five pages and 12 different sections for you to fill out. There are sections that you must fill out on the first, second, and third pages. On the third page, you also have to sign and date the document.

Eleven of the sections are numbered, but there is an unnumbered section where you fill in the court name and provide the street address of the court on the first page.

How do I fill out the first page of the SC-100?

There is only one section on the first page of the SC-100 that you need to fill out.

You need to fill out the court name and street address

This section is an unnumbered section on the first page. It’s the second of three boxes on the top half of the page on the right side. It reads, in bold text, “Superior Court of California, County of.”

Above the section name are directions that tell you to fill in the court name and the street address of the particular courthouse where you will file. If you haven’t determined which courthouse you should file in, you can do so now by going back to the beginning of this article or using Dispute.

How do I fill out the second page of the SC-100?

You need to fill out three sections on this page: Sections 1, 2, and 3.

You’ll have to fill out additional forms if:

  • You are suing more than one person (you’ll need to fill out and file SC-100A)
  • You are a group of three or more people suing someone (you’ll need to fill out SC-100A)
  • You are doing business under a name that isn’t yours, such as ‘Los Angeles Plumbing’ (you’ll need to fill out form SC-103)
  • Through these sections, and perhaps an additional form or two, you’ll provide information about who you and anyone that is suing with you are, who the people you’re suing are, and why the people you’re suing owe you money.

How do I fill out Section 1?

Section 1 is all about you. It’s at the top of the second page, and it starts with ‘the plaintiff’ in bold.

If you have more than two people who are suing, you’ll have to fill out form SC-100A for each additional two people.

If any person suing is doing business under a fictitious name, such as a trade name (like Los Angeles Plumbing) but isn’t a business with the same name, then you’ll have to fill out form SC-103.

In Section 1 of the main form (SC-100), you’ll input your:

Name Phone number Street address Mailing address (optional, and only if different) If a second person is suing with you, you’ll fill out the same fields for them just below. Remember that if you run out of room for additional people, you’ll have to attatch the SC-100A.

How do I fill out Section 2?

Section two is about the person, or people, you’re suing. If you leave this information blank, your case can be rejected by the clerk of the courthouse.

If you’re suing more than one person, you’ll need to fill out form SC-100A for each additional person.

If you’re suing someone who is part of the military and is on active duty, be sure to check the box and write their name at the bottom of the section, just above section 3.

For each person you’re suing, you’ll need their:

Name Phone Number Street Address (this can be their place of business) Mailing Address (optional)

How do I fill out section 3?

Section 3 is about why you believe the person you’re suing owes you money. For everything you write in this section, keep it simple.

Start with the dollar amount. Whatever you provide, you’ll have to back up in court with evidence.

For part (a), you’ll have to explain why the person you’re suing owes you money. With only two lines in this field, you should know that you aren’t expected to provide much detail.

Describe, in as few words as possible, what happened. Here are some examples.

  • “John (last name) has failed to repay a $1,000 loan and $100 interest.”
  • “Sarah (last name) hit my car and hasn’t paid for the repairs.”
  • “Alex (last name)didn’t repair my fence after I paid him $2,000 to.”
  • This field isn’t where you describe what evidence you have or provide the full story. You should have already discussed the issue with the person you’re suing, so they should already know, and the court will hear the full case at trial.

How do I fill out the third page of the SC-100?

On page 3, you’ll have to sign and date the document and fill out section 4 through section 11 (a total of 8 sections.)

These are all easy sections to fill out, assuming you began by determining that you were filing in the right courthouse, so don’t be intimidated by the number of sections.

How do I fill out section 4?

Before filing in small claims court, you are required by law to try and settle the matter out of court.

Either check yes, to indicate that you have sent a demand letter by certified mail, or go ahead and send a demand letter and fill out the rest of the form later.

How do I fill out section 5?

If you’re filing in the area where the defendant lives, then check box A. Filing where the defendant lives involves the least risk that your law suit will be rejected for being in the wrong court.

Otherwise, check a box whose conditions (the statements that follow it) you meet. You will most likely still need to check box a.

How do I fill out section 6?

This section is optional, but you should try to fill it out if you know.

Simply write the zipcode of the area where it occurred.

If you are filing in the wrong courthouse (which in a county is often determined by zipcode) your filing may be rejected. If your lawsuit isn’t rejected by the court clerk but is in the wrong place, then you may have it thrown out later.

How do I fill out section 7?

Check no unless you are suing your lawyer over fees.

How do I fill out section 8?

Check no unless you are suing a public entity.

How do I fill out section 9?

Check no unless you have filed more than 12 other small claims cases in Calornia in the last twelve months.

How do I fill out section 10?

Check yes if you’re suing for more than $2,500.

Check no if you’re suing for $2,500 or less.

You cannot file for more than two cases for more than $2,500 per calendar year in California.

How do I fill out section 11?

Write today’s date, then write your name in print (not cursive), and, finally, sign it.

If another person is suing with you, have them sign it too. If three or more are suing together, have the additional people sign SC-100A (the form where extra people’s details are placed--you need to have them sign whatever document where its listed.)

Get Dispute to file your small claims case online today. Win back the money you deserve.

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