Small Claims Court in San Diego County

San Diego County small claims court serves a diverse population across the San Diego Area. There is a single Small Claims Court that manages small claims for all cities within San Diego County.

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 Diego Court System.

Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court offers a simplified legal process for civil cases involving amounts up to $12,500. It is 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

When you file a claim, your hearing date will be scheduled between 20 and 70 days from the filing date. San Diego County also offers night court sessions, which you can request at the time of filing your case.

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

Anyone at least 18 years old or legally emancipated and mentally competent can sue in Small Claims Court.

Claim Limits

Individuals and sole proprietors can sue for up to $12,500, while corporations or businesses can sue for up to $6,250. Exceptions apply for specific types of cases, such as COVID-19 rental debt actions. You can only bring two cases per year that involve more than $2,500.00.

Can I be represented by a lawyer?

You can't be represented by a lawyer in court to speak for you. However, you can get advice and help from a lawyer before or after you file your claim.

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

The cost to file depends on how much you're claiming and how many times you've filed in the past year. If you've filed 12 or fewer claims in the past year:

  • For claims ranging from $0.01 to $1,500.00, the filing fee is $30.00.
  • For claims from $1,500.01 to $5,000.00, it's $50.00.
  • For claims from $5,000.01 to $12,500.00, the fee is $75.00.

If you've filed more than 12 claims in the past year, the filing fee is a flat rate of $100.00 for claims up to $12,500.00.

Serving Notice

After you've filed your claim and gotten a court date, you need to give each person you're suing a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100).

  • You can't deliver these papers yourself. You have to ask another adult to do it for you or using methods like personal service or substituted service.
  • Make sure you give them enough time to deliver the papers before your court date. It's important that the copies are delivered before your case can be heard in court.

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.

Courthouse Location

Hall of Justice (Central Division)

330 W. Broadway, Room 225
San Diego, CA 92101
(858) 634-1919\


  • Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holidays.

Let Squabble Help You With Your Small Claim in San Diego 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 Diego 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.

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