Have a Small Claims Court Lawsuit in Santa Clara County or thinking of filing one?
In this article, learn about:
- We have summarized how to file a small claims lawsuit in Santa Clara 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.
Address to the Santa Clara Small Claims Court
While there are many courthouses in Santa Clara County, the only one that conducts small claims court hearings is the Downtown Superior Court located at:
Downtown Superior Court
191 North 1st Street
San Jose, CA 95113
While there are a few courthouses in the vicinity make sure you go to the one that looks like the picture on the right. It is a brown building that barely has any windows. It is located on the corner of W St. James Street and Market Street. Additionally, the entrance of the courthouse is inside the courtyard off of W St. James Street.
How do I contact the Small Claims Court Clerk?
Need to contact the Santa Clara Small Claims Court Clerk? Here is how:
- The Santa Clara Small Claims Court Clerk is located on the 1st floor of the Downtown Superior Court, 191 North 1st Street, San Jose, CA 95113. Once you walk past security the Small Claims Court Clerk's office is to the right of the 1st floor. We waited 30 minutes in line to speak to a court clerk.
- Press 2 then Press 7
Can I file my Small Claims Case in Santa Clara County?
You can always sue an individual Santa Clara Small Claims Court if they live in San Clara County. You can always sue a company in Santa Clara Small Claims Court if their business is located in Santa Clara County.
You may be able to sue in Santa Clara Small Claims in other situations. For example:
- If you are suing about a car accident that occurred in Santa Clara.
- If you are suing about a security deposit and the leased premises are located in Santa Clara.
- If you are suing about damage to your house that occurred in Santa Clara.
- If you have an issue with your Landlord returning the security deposit and the rented unit was in Santa Clara County then you would be able to sue your landlord in Santa Clara 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 Santa Clara Small Claims Court: Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Los Altos Hills, and Los Gatos.
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 Santa Clara Small Claims Court are:
- Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit.
- Landlord/Tenant disputes over unpaid rent.
- Roommate disputes.
- Disputes over loans.
- Contracts (written and verbal).
- Auto accidents.
- Disputes over auto repairs.
- Disputes over remodeling or home repairs (disputes with contractors).
- Damage caused to property.
- Unpaid bills.
How long do I have to File a Small Claims case in Santa Clara County?
- 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 Santa Clara Small Claims Court lawsuit.
- Read Common statutes of limitations for Santa Clara Small Claims Court.
How much can I sue for in Santa Clara County Small Claims?
This is also known as the "small claims court limits." In Santa Clara County Small Claims you can sue for the following maximum amounts:
What are the Santa Clara County Small Claims Court Filing Fees?
The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in Santa Clara 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.
Santa Clara Small Claims Court Hearings
When will the Small Claims Hearing be?
- Once a case is filed in Santa Clara County Small Claims Court, the hearing will be scheduled within 30- 70 days.
- You must notify the person you sued at least 15 days before the hearing if they live in Santa Clara County. If they live outside of Santa Clara, you must notify them at least 20 days before the hearing.
- Note: If you use "substituted service" these deadlines differ (25 days before the hearing if they live in Santa Clara County and 30 days before the hearing if they live outside the county).
- Make sure to file "Proof of Service" at least 5 days before the hearing.
How to prepare for a 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. The judge will then ask the other party for their side of the story.
- 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.
Where to Park Near the Santa Clara Small Claims Court
There are many parking structures right by the courthouse. One of the more convenient ones is located 1 block from the court and is called Park SJ (or San Pedro Market Parking if you search on Google Maps). Here is the address: 45 N San Pedro St, San Jose, CA 95113. It costs $1 for every 20 minutes ($3 each hour).
2 Hour Street Parking
The streets around the courthouse are lined with 2 Hour Street Parking. If you need to speak with the small claims court clerk, 2-hour parking is a good option. However, if you have a hearing scheduled that day, you should probably not park in a 2-hour parking to be on the safe side.
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.
Take the Elevator to the 5th Floor
There are two courtrooms for small claims. Courtroom No. 14 and Courtroom No. 15.
Locate Your Case on the Schedule
Outside of each courtroom, there will be a bulletin board with a print out of the cases heard that day. You want to locate your case on the schedule. Go to Courtroom No. 14 and check the bulletin board there. Can't find your case? Go to Courtroom No. 15 and check the bulletin board there. You want to make sure you are in the right courtroom! 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. If you are unable to speak to them, go down to the 1st floor to the small claims court clerk.
Wait Until the Doors Are Opened
The doors will likely be locked until 8:30 am if you are there for the morning session or 1 pm if you are there for the afternoon session. Make sure to use that waiting time to organize your evidence or go to the restroom.
Small Claims Mediation
Santa Clara County offers free mediation for small claims court cases. Free mediation for small claims is only available some days of the week.
- What is mediation? Mediation is a meeting between both the plaintiff (the person suing) and the defendant (the person being 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 mediation early, then you get to "skip the line" and your case is processed faster.
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.