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Responding to a Lawsuit

I was just served with the papers on a lawsuit against me; how do I respond?

Can I just pay the money, or return the property to the plaintiff and not show up at the trial?

What can I do if I owe the money to the plaintiff, but cannot pay at this time and the plaintiff refuses to settle informally?

I was served improperly (or untimely); do I still have to show up in Court?

How do I let the Court know I am being sued in the wrong Court (venue)?

What if the Small Claims Court has no jurisdiction over me or the case?

What do I do if I need more time to prepare my case or figure out whether I should sue the plaintiff back?

How can I sue the plaintiff back for the money he owes?

Do I have to file my countersuit in the same Court?

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I just was served with the papers on a lawsuit against me; how do I respond?

There is no answer you must file in response to the lawsuit against you.

Can I just pay the money, or return the property, to the plaintiff and not show up at the trial?

If you feel you owe the money or the property to the plaintiff, you may certainly contact the plaintiff to resolve your dispute informally. In fact, you are encouraged to deal with the problem informally between yourselves. However, you should have a clear agreement with the plaintiff about dismissing the case against you upon your payment or return of property.

What can I do if I owe the money to the plaintiff but cannot pay at this time and the plaintiff refuses to settle informally?

You can show up at the trial and let the judicial officer know of your situation. In court, the plaintiff may be satisfied with getting a Stipulated Judgment. In it, you and the plaintiff are agreeing to how much and when you will pay in installments. If you miss a payment, however, the entire remaining balance will become due and the plaintiff can proceed to collecting on that balance.

I was served improperly (or untimely); do I still have to show up in court?

If you were not served properly or in a timely fashion, then you do not have any legal obligation to show up. For instance, the lawsuit papers cannot just be left on your front porch. You must also be served at least 15 days prior to the trial date, or at least 20 days if you live outside of the county where the suit is filed. If you were served with less time, then you were served untimely. If that happened, then you can protest by writing to the court.

However, if the court is not entirely convinced whether or not you were served properly, the court may proceed with the case and enter a default judgment against you. So, you may still want to show up in court and argue that you be served properly.

Also, if you had notice that you were being sued and could adequately prepare your case, you may want to deal with the lawsuit as soon as possible. In that case, just show up and proceed with your defense.

How do I let the court know I am being sued in the wrong court (venue)?

When you are being sued in the wrong venue, you can either:

Proceed

If the wrong venue does not unduly inconvenience you, then you may wish to proceed with the case to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

Challenge venue in writing

You can write to the court arguing that the court is the wrong venue. If the judicial officer agrees with you, the case against you will be dismissed without prejudice and the plaintiff will have to re-file in the correct venue. If the judicial officer disagrees with you, then the trial must be postponed for 15 days and you will be notified of the new date of trial.

Challenge venue in person

You can show up at the trial and challenge venue. If the judicial officer agrees, then the case will be dismissed without prejudice and the plaintiff will have to re-file in the correct venue. If the judicial officer decides the venue is proper, then you will be present to put on your defense.

What if the small claims court has no jurisdiction over the case or me?

When the court has no jurisdictional authority over you or the case against you, you can either:

Proceed

If the lack of jurisdiction does not adversely affect you and you would rather resolve the dispute as soon as possible, then you may just proceed with the trial.

Challenge the lack of jurisdiction in writing

You can write to the court arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction. If the judicial officer agrees with you, the case against you will be dismissed without prejudice and the plaintiff will have to re-file in the court that has jurisdiction. If the judicial officer disagrees with you, then the trial must be postponed for 15 days and you will be notified of the new date of trial.

Challenge venue in person

You can show up at the trial and challenge jurisdiction. If the judicial officer agrees, then the case will be dismissed without prejudice and the plaintiff will have to re-file in the court that has jurisdiction. If the judicial officer decides the court has proper jurisdictional authority, then you will be present to proceed with your defense.

What do I do if I need more time to prepare my case or figure out whether I should sue the plaintiff back?

You can file for a postponement of the trial by filing a Request to Postpone Small Claims Hearing (Form SC-110) at least 10 days prior to the scheduled trial date. You must pay a $10 filing fee.

How can I sue the plaintiff back for the money he/she owes me?

You can file a countersuit against the plaintiff, especially if your claim against him/her is related to his/her lawsuit against you. However, you are not required to bring any claim you may have against the plaintiff in your countersuit.

You will have generally the same set of rules and procedures about your countersuit as the plaintiff has with his lawsuit against you. But you can have the plaintiff served at least 5 days prior to the trial date and file the proof of service. If you were served untimely, then you can have the plaintiff served up to a day before the trial date. In that case, bring the proof of service to court with you.

Do I have to file my countersuit in the same court?

If you have a claim for more than $5,000, or already filed two claims for more than $2,500 against anyone in the current calendar year, then you may file your claim against the plaintiff in the civil division of the superior court. You should then file a Motion to Transfer with the small claims court to transfer the plaintiff’s claim against you so that both lawsuits may be heard at the same time by a superior court judge.

 

 
Superior Court of California, Kings County
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