Home
General Information
Fees & Forms
Local Rules
Court RFQs & RFPs
News and Media
Employment Opportunities
Court Locations
Site Map
Glossary of Legal Terms
Court Calendars
Appeals
Civil 
Criminal
Exhibits
Family & Children
Family Law Facilitator/Self Help
Jury Services
Juvenile
Landlord / Tenants
Restraining Orders
Small Claims
Traffic
Grand Jury
Security Screening
Related Links
 

Filing a Lawsuit

How long do I have to file my claim?

How long do I have to sue a government entity?

Where do I file my Small Claims lawsuit?

What happen if I filed in the wrong venue?

What do I file with the Court?

What do I need to know to complete my lawsuit filing?

Do I need to provide any evidence to the Court when I am filing the claim?

How do I name the defendant?

How can I find the name of the owner(s) of a business I am suing?

How do I find out the agent for service information for a corporate defendant?

How can I correctly name the defendant after I have filed?

I sued a wrong person; how can I take that defendant off my claim?

Return to the Small Claims Advisory Main Page

To access any of the links highlighted in blue that are found on this page, you will need version 5.0 (or higher) of the free
 Adobe Acrobat Reader 

How long do I have to file my claim?

A statute of limitations, a time period in which you must file a claim, depends on what kind of case your claim involves. You can think of it as the expiration date on your claim. While the rules affecting the statute of limitations are complicated and may be extended in your case, the following are some examples of common types of claims:

Personal injury

Two years from the date of injury, or in the case of a minor, two years from the eighteenth birthday. If the injury is one that could not be discovered immediately, then you have two years from the date you first discovered it.

Oral contract

Two years from the date the other party broke the contract.

Written contract

Four years from the date the other party broke the contract.

Assault and battery

One year from the date of the incident.

Fraud or mistake

Three years from the date of discovery.

Damage to personal property

Three years from the date the damage was done.

How long do I have to sue a government entity?

Before you can sue a government entity, you must first file a written claim with the entity. For personal injury or damage to personal property, you have only 6 months from the date of injury to file the claim. For breach of contract or damage to real property, you must file the claim within 1 year. After the entity rejects your claim (sends you a "Right to Sue" letter), you must normally file a lawsuit within 6 months from the date of that letter.

Where do I file my small claims lawsuit?

You should file your lawsuit in the proper county or judicial district. The proper place, or venue, is determined by several considerations. The most important factor, and the most proper place, is where the defendant person resides or where the defendant entity has a principal place of business.

Other factors considered are:

◦Where the accident occurred (in a car accident case);
◦Where the contract was entered into, where it was to be performed or where the you were to be paid (in a contract case);
◦Where the consumer signed the contract, where the consumer resided when the contract was signed, where the consumer resided at the time of filing the claim, or where the purchased good are permanently kept (in a consumer debt case).

When you are filing a suit against a state agency, you may file in any county where there is an office of the California Attorney General - Sacramento, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

What happens if I filed in the wrong venue?

If you wish to re-file in the correct venue, you can dismiss your case and bring the lawsuit in the proper venue. The court in the proper venue will charge you a new filing fee.

If the defendant challenges venue by either writing to the court or at the trial, and the court agrees that the venue is not correct, your case will be dismissed without prejudice and you will be allowed to file your claim in the proper venue.

The defendant may also not challenge venue and the court may overlook the venue problem, in which case you may proceed with your claim against the defendant.

What do I file with the court?

Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant bringing a countersuit, you must first make your demand to the other party, if it is practical to do so, before you can file your claim. Since you may have to show proof you have done so, you should make that demand in writing and send it by certified mail and request a return receipt.

You can file by mail submitting forms. For an initial lawsuit, you need to submit both Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Defendant (Form SC-100). To file a countersuit, you must submit Claim of Defendant (Form SC-120). You can either (1) download these forms over the Internet by clicking on any link highlighted in blue, (2) request that they be sent to you by mail by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the clerk’s office at 1426 South Drive, Hanford, CA  93230 or (3) by picking them up in person at the same office.

Complete the forms and enclose them along with a check for $22.00, made payable to "Kings County Superior Court." If you want the court the attempt service of process for you through certified mail, enclose a request note and add $10.00 for each defendant that you want to be served by mail or you can file you claim in person.

What do I need to know to complete my lawsuit filing?

You should know the name and address of each defendant, as well as how much you are suing for and why. 

When you are suing a corporation, a limited partnership (LP), or a limited liability company (LLC), then you will need to know the name and address of the defendant entity’s agent for service of process. Contact the office of the California Secretary of State at 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, California 95814 or access their Internet website at www.ss.ca.gov for that information.

Do I need to provide any evidence to the court when I am filing the claim?

No. You must present your evidence at the time of the trial.

How do I name the defendant?

You must provide the full name of your defendant. This is important when you are trying to collect a judgment in your favor. If you do not know the defendant's name, you name that defendant as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe", especially when the statute of limitations is running out on your claim. However, you must later modify your claim to state the defendant's true name.

Some examples of naming a defendant are:

Individual

Write the full name. Add the middle name or initial if you know it. In case of a minor or a mentally incompetent defendant, you must name both the defendant and the guardian ad litem. For example, write "Teddy Behr, a minor by and through, John Smith, guardian ad litem."

Sole proprietorship

Indicate both the owner and the business. For example, name the defendant "John Smith, individually and doing business as Smith Towing." If you win, then you can collect against either John Smith's personal assets or Smith Towing's business assets, or both.

General partnership

Sue both the individual partners and the business partnership. For example, name the defendant "John Smith and Jane Smith, individually and doing business as Smith Towing." You may also sue the individual partners and the business partnership separately.

Limited partnership

Sue the general partner and the business partnership, either together or separately. For example, sue "John Smith, a general partner, individually and doing business as Smith Towing, L.P.," or sue both "John Smith, a general partner" and "Smith Towing, L.P."

To find information on a limited partnership, contact the office of the California Secretary of State at 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, California 95814 or access their Internet website at www.ss.ca.gov for that information.

Corporation

Sue the corporation, not the officer or the employee you have been dealing with. If a corporation is the owner of a business that caused you harm, then treat the corporation as the individual owner of a sole proprietorship. For example, sue "Smith Auto, Inc." or "Smith Auto, Inc., individually and doing business as Smith Towing."

You will also have to provide the name and address of the agent for service of process. This is a person or a company the corporation has designated to receive lawsuit papers on its behalf. Contact the office of the California Secretary of State at 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, California 95814 or access their Internet website at www.ss.ca.gov for that information.

How can I find the name of the owner(s) of a business I am suing?

You can contact the Business Licensing Office of either the city or county in which the business is operating.

How do I find out the agent for service information for a corporate defendant?

The office of the Secretary of State of California, located at 1500 11th Street, 3rd floor, Sacramento, California 95814, maintains records of corporations (Inc., Ltd.), limited liability companies (LLC), and limited partnerships (LP), including information on their agents for service of process. You can access the information online over the Internet at their Internet Web Site at www.ss.ca.gov for that information.

How can I correctly name the defendant after I have filed?

Write the correct name on the Request to Amend Party Name (SC-114) and submit it to the court clerk. Indicate that you are amending the claim to correctly name the defendant.  Such a declaration may be either mailed or hand-delivered to the court.

I sued a wrong person; how can I take that defendant off my claim?

You must file the dismissal forms - Request for Dismissal (Form 982(a)(5)) and Notice of Entry of Dismissal and Proof of Service (Form 982(a)(5.1)) - then have the copies of the forms sent by mail to each of the defendants that had been served. The non-party person who serves by mail for you must then complete the Proof of Service portion of the Notice of Entry of Dismissal and return the signed original to the court clerk's office.

 

 
Superior Court of California, Kings County
All contents copyright (C) 2003, All rights reserved.