Small Claims Court in San Bernardino County

The San Bernardino Small Claims Court serves a diverse population throughout the San Bernardino area. There are four courthouses spread around San Bernardino County that handle small claims, serving different jurisdictions.

Squabble is here to assist you in navigating the small claims court system and filing a claim with ease. We recognize that not everyone is a legal expert, and our goal is to simplify the process for you. This guide will answer your questions about filing claims in the San Bernardino Court System.

Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court offers a simplified legal process for civil cases designed to be straightforward, eliminating the need for lawyers and strict rules of evidence. If you are bringing a case against someone, you are the plaintiff. If someone is bringing a case against you, you are the defendant.

Filing Your Claim

In the Small Claims Division, individuals can file claims for amounts up to $12,500, while corporations, partnerships, governmental entities, and other legal entities are limited to $6,250. Additionally, there's a restriction on the number of cases a party can file in small claims for more than $2,500 each during a calendar year—no more than two such cases are permitted.

Here are the exceptions to the $12,500 limit for individuals:

As a natural person, you can only sue a guarantor for up to $8,125 ($3,125 if they don't charge for the guarantee). A "guarantor" is someone or a company that promises to be responsible for another person's debt. (If you're an entity other than a natural person and the guarantor charges for its services, you can file a claim for up to $5,000.) However, you can sue the Registrar of the Contractors (the executive officer of the Contractors State License Board) as a guarantor for up to $12,500.

Collections agencies can't sue in Small Claims court to collect on debts assigned to them.

Cases Handled

Small Claims Court deals with various situations where you can file different cases. For instance:

  • Tenant/Landlord Dispute
  • Personal Injury
  • Stolen Property
  • Damaged Property
  • Debt Collection
  • Auto Repair
  • Poor Construction
  • Product Defect
  • Broken Contracts or Verbal Promises

Who Can Sue

  • You need to be at least 18 years old to file a claim in Small Claims Court. If you're under 18, you can ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem, who acts on your behalf.
  • Before suing, you must first demand payment from the defendant, especially if it's about property possession.
  • Usually, only the original owner of the claim can sue in Small Claims Court. If the claim is assigned to someone else, they can't sue unless they meet specific exceptions.
  • You typically need to represent yourself at the hearing, unless you're filing on behalf of a corporation or another entity. In that case, an employee, officer, or director must represent the entity.

Can I be represented by a lawyer?

You can't be represented by a lawyer in court to speak for you.

Guide for plaintiffs

  • Contact the defendant to resolve the issue, consider mediation or other informal dispute resolution.
  • Understand small claims court procedures and time limits.
  • Determine the exact amount in dispute.
  • File a claim form (Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court, Form SC-100) and pay the filing fee. Businesses should also file an Authorization to Appear form (SC-109) if needed.
  • Ensure proper service of process on each defendant and return the Proof of Service form to the court.
  • Prepare for court by organizing thoughts, collecting evidence, making copies of photos and documents, and talking to witnesses.
  • Keep communication open and try to resolve the dispute before the hearing.
  • Attend the hearing and present your case.
  • Await the judge's decision, usually received by mail after the hearing. Plaintiffs cannot file an appeal if they disagree with the ruling.

Guide for defendants:

  • Contact the plaintiff to resolve the dispute, suggest mediation or other informal methods.
  • Understand small claims court procedures.
  • If you have a claim against the plaintiff, consider resolving it at the same hearing by filing Defendant’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (Form SC-120).
  • Prepare for the court hearing by organizing thoughts, collecting evidence, making copies of photos and documents, and talking to witnesses.
  • Keep communication open and try to resolve the dispute before the hearing.
  • If you owe money, try to pay it or negotiate a payment plan.
  • If needed, request a postponement from the court to resolve the dispute informally.
  • Avoid having a court judgment entered against you, as it may affect your credit record.
  • Attend the hearing and present your defense.
  • Wait for the decision, usually received by mail. If you disagree with the judgment, you have 30 days from when the clerk mails the Notice of Entry of Judgment to file a Notice of Appeal (Form SC-140).

How to Prove Your Claim for Damages in Court

You need to carefully consider the amount of money you'll ask for in damages. You have to show the judge that you deserve the money you're claiming. You can prove your claim with various types of evidence:

  • A canceled check
  • Drawings
  • Letters
  • A professional estimate of damages
  • Photographs
  • Receipts
  • Statements, both yours and from witnesses
  • A warranty
  • A written contract

How much time do you have to file a small claims case

  • If you were hurt, you have 2 years from when it happened or when you found out about it. If you’re a minor, you have 2 years after you turn 18.
  • If someone broke a spoken agreement, you have 2 years from when the agreement was broken.
  • If you lost money because of fraud, you have 3 years from when you found out about it.
  • It can be tricky to know if it’s too late to file, but if you're unsure, go ahead and file your case. The judge will make the final decision.

Filling Process

To start a case, complete the Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100) and file it with the appropriate court. Be sure to properly name the defendant(s) in the form to ensure correct identification. If you have more than 2 defendants or plaintiffs, please complete the SC-100A form and you can use as many as necessary.

Where to file your case

Where you file your case matters. You have to file it in the right Small Claims Court or location. On your Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100) form, you need to explain why you think you've picked the correct place to file.

If you file in the wrong county or the wrong court within the correct county, the judge might move the case to the right place or even dismiss it. Then, you'd have to file again in the right location and pay the filing fee again. Usually, you file where the defendant lives. But there are some exceptions to this rule, for instance:

  1. Automobile accident:
    • Accident occurred
    • Defendant lives
  2. Contract:
    • Contract was signed
    • Contract was to be performed by the defendant
    • You were to be paid
  3. A consumer purchase and you are the seller:
    • Defendant signed the contract
    • Defendant lived when the contract was signed
    • Defendant lived when the action was filed
    • Goods purchased on credit are installed or permanently kept
  4. A consumer purchase and you are the buyer
    • You signed the contract
    • You lived when the contract was signed
    • You lived when the action was filed

Court Fees

  • Claims for $1,500.00 or less $30.00
  • Claims from $1,500.01 to $5,000.00 $50.00
  • Claims from $5,000.01 to $12,500.00 $75.00
  • Persons or Business who have filed more than 12 claims in CA in the previous 12 mos. $100.00
  • Service of Documents by Certified Mail $15.00 (per defendant) [Fee waiver does not cover]
  • Notice of Appeal $75.00
  • Writ $25.00
  • Astract $25.00
  • Order of Examination $60.00
  • Motion to Vacate $20.00
  • Request to Postpone Hearing $10.00

Serving Notice

To serve your claim via Certified Mail through the Clerk's office, you need to fill out Form SFSCL-004. Complete one form for each defendant. Enclose a copy of the completed form for each defendant along with a $15.00 check payable to "Clerk, Superior Court" for each defendant you want to serve.

Please note that if the addressee doesn't sign for the Certified Mail or if the signature appears to be by someone else, the service is invalid. If the signature is illegible, the court may review it during the hearing and deem it unacceptable, possibly leading to reserving the claim before a new court date.

Service must be done before the hearing date. If the defendant lives:

  • In the same county: Service of process must be completed at least 15 days before the hearing date.
  • Outside the county: Service of process must be completed at least 20 days before the hearing date.
  • Be sure to file your "Proof of Service" at least 5 days before the hearing.

If you have any questions regarding how to serve your defendant, please visit this link for more information:

Preparing for Court

What to Bring

Make sure to bring all your evidence with you to court. It's advisable to have extra copies in case the judge needs to review them. You can provide the additional copies to the judge, but remember to keep your own copy for reference during questioning. Your evidence may consist of items such as a written contract, receipts, photographs, and statements from yourself or witnesses.

What to Do

Before your court date, there are several things you can do to prepare:

  • Check your facts and make sure everything is accurate.
  • Gather all your evidence.
  • Make sure your witnesses are ready to testify.
  • Spend some time thinking about what you'll say to the judge, considering:
  • Questions the judge might ask.
  • Points you want to make.
  • What the other party might say and what evidence they might present.
  • Planning ahead will help you present a stronger case.

When I arrive to court

On your scheduled court day, aim to arrive early to allow ample time to locate the correct room. Look for your name on a list posted outside the courtroom. If you don't see your name or if the list is unavailable, don't hesitate to seek assistance from the small claims clerk. Once inside, either the judge, court clerk, or bailiff will provide an overview of the proceedings and confirm the attendees for their respective hearings. It's essential for everyone involved to pledge to tell the truth.

  • Remember, the order of cases might not match the list, so stay in the courtroom until your case is called.
  • When it's your turn, both you and the other person involved will be called. If you're the one who filed the case, you'll speak first.

Here's what you should do

  • Be honest and stick to the facts.
  • Stay calm and focused, even if you're upset.
  • Show respect to the judge and the other person.
  • Address the judge directly, not the other person.
  • If you don't understand something, ask the judge politely to explain.
  • Most importantly, keep your voice calm and don’t raise your voice, whether you're talking to the judge or the other person.
  • You'll only have a few minutes to explain your side of the story, so keep it brief and to the point. The judge is mainly interested in hearing the facts and may ask for any evidence you have to support your case.


Parties can settle before or during the trial:

  • You can ask the court to delay the hearing to give you and the other person a chance to settle things outside of court. If you reach an agreement before the court date, the plaintiff (the person who filed the case) can choose to dismiss the case. If it’s your court date, you can still reach a settlement. If you do, the judge might:
  • Give you more time to work out the details
  • Dismiss the case without closing the door for future action
  • Postpone the hearing for a short while to allow for any payments to be made
  • Make the terms of your agreement part of the official court record
  • It's important that both sides agree to the settlement. The plaintiff should receive full payment before officially asking the court to dismiss the case (using form CIV-110). Once this form is filed, it serves as proof of payment, and the case will be closed for good.

If one of the parties does not show up to court

If the person who filed a lawsuit (the plaintiff) doesn't show up, it means they're in default. The judge might do a few things:

  • Reschedule the case
  • Dismiss the case with prejudice (meaning it can't be filed again)
  • Dismiss the case without prejudice (meaning it can be filed again)
  • Decide against the plaintiff after considering the defendant's evidence.

If the defendant doesn't show up; the judge will check if they were properly notified of the court date.

  • If the Proof of Service (SC-104) shows the notice was done correctly, the judge may proceed with the case.
  • The plaintiff still needs to prove their claim with evidence before a default judgment is made.
  • Just because the defendant isn't in court doesn't mean the judge will automatically decide against them.

Collecting Your Court Judgment

To get the money you've won in court:

  • If you've won your case, you're now the judgment creditor. This means you have the right to collect the money owed to you. The judgment becomes final 30 days after you receive the Notice of Entry of Judgment in court or by mail.
  • If the other party, the defendant, doesn't appeal or contest the judgment within this time, you can start collecting what you're owed.
  • As the judgment creditor, make sure the person or company who owes you money, known as the judgment debtor, knows about the judgment and where to send payments.
  • You can work with them to arrange how they'll pay you. You might agree to receive payments in installments over time or forgive any interest they owe if they pay you the full amount.

Appeals and Judgment Modification

  • Parties can appeal within 30 days if dissatisfied with the judgment.
  • Clerical errors in judgments can be corrected within 30 days.

Satisfaction of Judgment

File an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment form when the judgment is paid in full within 14 days of request by the debtor.

Let Squabble Help You With Your Small Claim at San Bernardino County

Don't allow the intricacies of the legal system to discourage you from pursuing justice and compensation for your claim. With Squabble, you have a dedicated partner to streamline the process and guide you toward resolution. Whether you're contemplating filing a claim at San Bernardino small claims court, Squabble is here to support you at every stage. Reach out to us today to commence your journey toward justice and compensation. Get started today and become one of the 95% of our customers who won or settled their case.

Courthouse Locations:

  1. Barstow District

    235 East Mountain View Street
    Barstow, CA 92311
    (760) 718-3700


    • Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holidays.
    • The clerk’s office phone hours at this location are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday (except court holidays).
  2. Fontana District

    17780 Arrow Boulevard
    Fontana, CA 92335\ (909) 350-9322


    • Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holidays.
    • The clerk’s office phone hours at this location are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday (except court holidays).
  3. Joshua Tree District

    6527 White Feather Road
    Joshua Tree, CA 92252
    (760) 974-3047


    • Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holidays.
    • The clerk’s office phone hours at this location are 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday - Friday (except court holidays).
  4. Needles District

    1111 Bailey Avenue
    Needles, CA 92363
    (760) 269-4962


    • Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holidays.
    • The clerk’s office phone hours at this location are 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday - Friday (except court holidays).
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