Have a Small Claims Court Case in Contra Costa County or thinking of filing one?
In this article, learn about:
We have summarized how to file a small claims lawsuit in Contra Costa County below.
Common types of small claims lawsuits
What to expect during a small claims hearing.
Small Claims Court Limits
How much going to small claims costs.
Fun fact, lawyers are not allowed at the initial small claims hearing! This is to even the playing field so that each party has an equal chance of obtaining justice.
Small Claims Court in Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County has 3 small claims court locations:
Wakefield Taylor Courthouse
725 Court Street
Martinez, CA 94553
Richard E. Arnason Justice Center
1000 Center Drive
Pittsburg, CA 94565
George D. Carroll Courthouse
100 37th Street
Richmond, CA 94805
Depending on the zip code where the dispute occurred, you will be assigned to one of those three courthouses. You can find a list of zip codes assigned to a particular Contra Costa courthouse here.
How do I contact the Contra Costa Small Claims Court Clerk?
Need to contact the Contra Costa Small Claims Court Clerk? Here is how:
Small Claims Clerk: (925) 608-1000
Phone Hours: 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM
Can I file my Small Claims Case in Contra Costa County?
You can always sue an individual in a Contra Costa small claims court if they live in Contra Costa County. You can always sue a business in a Contra Costa small claims court if the business is located in Contra Costa County.
You may be able to sue in a Contra Costa small claims in other situations. For example:
If you are suing about a car accident that occurred in Contra Costa.
If you are suing about a security deposit and the leased premises are located in Contra Costa.
If you are suing about damage to your house that occurred in Contra Costa.
If you have an issue with your landlord returning the security deposit and the rented unit was in Concord, Richmond, Pittsburg, or anywhere in Contra Costa County then you would be able to sue your landlord in a Contra Costa Small Claims Court (you would also be able to sue your landlord in the small claims court in the county where they live).
If the defendant lives in the following cities/towns then you can sue in a Contra Costa Small Claims Court: Alamo, Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Blackhawk, Brentwood, Byron, Canyon, Clayton, Concord, Crockett, Danville, Diablo, Discovery Bay, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Hilltop Mall, Knightsen, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, North Richmond, Oakley, Orinda, Pacheco, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Point Richmond, Port Costa, Richmond, Rodeo, San Pablo, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.
What types of small claims cases can be filed?
So long as there isn't another court better suited to hear the case, then the lawsuit can be filed in small claims. The most common types of small claims cases in Contra Costa Small Claims Court are:
Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit.
Landlord/Tenant disputes over unpaid rent.
Disputes over loans.
Contracts (written and verbal).
Disputes over auto repairs.
Disputes over remodeling or home repairs (disputes with contractors).
Damage caused to property.
How long do I have to File a Small Claims case in Contra Costa?
Do not wait to file your small claims court lawsuit! After an incident occurs, you only have a set period of time to file your lawsuit. Think of this as a deadline (called the
statute of limitations). Once the deadline is reached, you cannot file your California Small Claims Court lawsuit.
This is also known as the "small claims court limits." In Contra Costa County Small Claims you can sue for the following maximum amounts:
California Small Claims Court Limits
What are the Contra Costa County Small Claims Court Filing Fees?
The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in Contra Costa County depends on how much you are suing for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.
What are other costs for Small Claims Court?
In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:
If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.
Contra Costa Small Claims Court Hearings
When will the Small Claims Hearing be?
Once a case is filed in Contra Costa Small Claims Court, the hearing will be scheduled
within 30- 70 days.
You must serve the small claims lawsuit on the defendant at least 15 days before the hearing if the defendant lives or resides within Contra Costa County. If the defendant resides outside of Contra Costa County, you must serve them
at least 20 days before the hearing.
Make sure to file "Proof of Service" at least 5 days before the hearing.
How to prepare for a Small Claims Court Hearing?
You have filed your case and served the defendant. The next step is to start preparing for your Small Claims Court hearing.
Research the law. If you are unsure about your case, consult an attorney, or conduct your own research about the law.
Prepare your evidence. Invoices, contracts, receipts, etc. You want to have your evidence organized with titles, dates, and why that piece of evidence is important. All your evidence should be geared towards showing the judge why you are correct.
Prepare what to say. During the hearing, the judge will ask the person suing why they are suing. If you are being sued, you will be asked why you don't owe the other party money.
Get your receipts for costs ready. For example, your filing fees and any process server costs. Make sure to let the judge know that you would like to be reimbursed for costs.
Print enough copies of all your evidence. You will need at least three copies (one for you, one for the judge, one for the other side).
What happens on the hearing date?
Give yourself plenty of time.
You do not want to be late for your hearing. Give yourself plenty of time for parking and navigating the courthouse.
Once You Walk into the Courthouse...
Once you walk in, the first thing you will see is airport-like
security. You will need to put your belongings through the metal detector. You can bring in laptops and cellphones, unlike some courthouses.
Once you arrive at the courtroom, locate your case on the paper schedule outside the courtroom door.
Outside of each courtroom, there will be a printed list of the cases that have hearings on that day.
You want to locate your case on the schedule. If you don't see your case listed, but you have received notice that your case will be heard that day, you may want to try and speak to the sheriff or clerk in the courtroom.
Make sure to use that waiting time to organize your evidence or go to the restroom.
Once the courtroom is opened, the court clerk, sheriff, and judge will go through what to expect. You will be sitting in a room with other people who have filed small claims cases. You will get to watch the cases before yours. Make sure you are in the courtroom when your case is called!
If both parties show up:
Right before the hearing, the judge will ask the parties to show each other the evidence that they have brought with them.
The Judge will ask the person who is suing why they are suing.
Then the person who is being sued will get to present their side of the story.
The hearing will last around 15 minutes.
The judge will ask the parties to show the judge the evidence they brought with them. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence other times you will get the evidence right back.
Very rarely will a judge tell the parties their decision immediately after the hearing. Instead, the judge will tell the parties that the decision will be mailed to them (usually takes a few weeks to two months or so).
If only you show up but the person you sued does not show up:
You still have to prove to the judge why you should win.
If only the defendant shows up:
The judge will close the lawsuit
Are attorneys allowed in small claims court?
Attorneys are not allowed to represent you or the person you sued at the initial hearing.
If the person you sued appeals (meaning they lost and want the judge to decide again) then attorneys are allowed to represent the parties at the appeal hearing.
Small Claims Mediation
Some small claims courts offer free mediation on the date of your hearing.
What is mediation? Mediation is a meeting between both you and the person you sued conducted by a neutral third-party (a mediator). The parties will meet with a mediator, discuss their case, and try to reach a mutually beneficial solution. Both parties must agree to mediation and it cannot be forced on them.
When will mediation occur? The court clerk, judge, or sheriff will announce if there are mediators available that day. Usually, the judge will tell the audience that if you opt for mediation, you can try to mediate the case while other hearings are being conducted. If you finish the mediation early, then you get to "skip the line" and your case is processed faster.
Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.