Area of Law:
In El Dorado County, California, you can file a civil action against another individual or entity for $7,500 or less in the El Dorado County small claims court. Small claims court is an informal court that allows a party to appear without the assistance of legal counsel. However, if the amount in dispute is more than $7,500, you must file a claim with the Civil Division of the El Dorado County Superior Court. In addition, you cannot file more than two small claims actions within the same year in the state of California for more than $2,500.
The plaintiff is the individual filing the claim, and the other party is the defendant. To file a small claims form, you must be at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, the court can appoint a guardian to represent your interest in the matter. To file a small claims action, complete Form SC 100, http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/sc100.pdf, and file in either the Cameron Park or South Lake Tahoe Branch of the El Dorado Superior Court, Small Claims Division during normal business hours. In addition, you will be required to pay a filing fee at the time of the filing. The filing fee differs depending on the amount you are asking for in the claim. Generally, the filing fee for a small claims action in El Dorado County ranges from $30 to $100.
After you complete and submit Form SC 100, you must provide the defendant with a copy of the filed form. Referred to as service of process, this ensures the defendant receives notice of the lawsuit. In California, a plaintiff can accomplish service of process in three ways. The plaintiff cannot serve the defendant, but must have another individual, over the age of 18 and not involved in the legal claim, serve the summons. First, the plaintiff's agent can serve the defendant in person. Personal service involves physically handing the defendant a copy of the claim. The plaintiff must complete personal service within 10 days prior to the small claims hearing if the defendant lives within El Dorado County. However, if the defendant lives outside of El Dorado County, the defendant must receive notice at least 15 days prior to the hearing.
Second, the defendant may receive notice of the small claims lawsuit through certified mail. If you elect to serve the defendant by certified mail, the El Dorado County clerk will send a copy of the claim to the defendant for a small fee. Finally, the plaintiff may serve the defendant using substituted service. Substituted service involves leaving a copy of the claim with a person over the age of 18 at the defendant’s residence or place of business. In addition, the plaintiff must follow up with a mailing of the claim at least 20 days prior to the small claims hearing. If the plaintiff chooses in person or substituted service, the plaintiff’s agent that carried out the service must complete a proof of service and file the proof of service with the court at least 5 days before the small claims hearing. Failure to serve the defendant with a copy of the filed form can result in the small claims court dismissing the case.
If you have any additional questions regarding how to file a small claims case in El Dorado County California, visit the court’s website http://www.eldoradocourt.org/departments/smallclaims.aspx.