Skip to main content
Skip to main content.

Small Claims

Small Claims

Disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively in Small Claims Court, where the rules are simple and informal. Litigants may not be represented by an attorney.

Claim Limit

The jurisdictional limit is $12,500 for individuals who are filing a claim in the Small Claims Division.  Corporations, partnerships, governmental entities, and other legal entities cannot claim more than $6,250. Parties may not file more than two cases in small claims for more than $2,500 each during a calendar year. For more information on initiating a small claims case see the SC-100-INFO form

Case Calendar & Query

Search for Case Calendars by Case Type and Date. Information is available up to 120 calendar days from today.

Case Calendar

Case information is available at S.F. Superior Court Online Services. You must have the case number or party name for an inquiry.

Video Conference Hearings in Small Claims

Effective Monday, February 22, 2021, the Small Claims Department will be holding hearings by video conference, and the public can view and/or listen to hearings, by clicking on the appropriate link below. 

Appearing Remotely by Zoom

At least 10 calendar days before the hearing the party requesting to appear by Zoom must obtain and submit the following forms:   

  1. Request to Appear by Zoom
  2. Declaration Re: Request to Appear by Zoom
  3. Order Re: Request to Appear by Zoom     

Download the Request to Appear by Zoom, Declaration Re: Request to Appear by Zoom and Order Re: Request to Appear by Zoom

If you have evidence such as documents or pictures, which support your case, send them to the opposing party, and Department 506 at least 5 days before the hearing.    

Small Claims (Department 506) Zoom link: (

If unable to join using the links above, the hearings may be joined by telephone by dialing: 1-415-762-9988 

Department 506: Meeting ID: 161 169 1878  Passcode: 745595

Frequently Asked Questions


Click on the questions below for more information


You cannot file the case in San Francisco just because you live or work in San Francisco. You can file your case in San Francisco if the defendant lives in San Francisco or if the incident in question happened in San Francisco.

If the incident happened in San Francisco, San Francisco is a proper venue.

If the answer to any of these questions is “in San Francisco”, San Francisco is the proper venue.


If the case is against a federal agency, the small claims court does not have jurisdiction

If the case is a bankruptcy or a family law case, the small claims court does not have jurisdiction.

If the plaintiff is an individual, he or she can only ask for up to $12,500. If the plaintiff is a business, the business can only request up to $6,250. The small claims court does not have jurisdiction over claims that exceed these amounts. If the plaintiff’s claim is worth over $12,500, but he or she is choosing to use small claims court, he or she cannot file an additional claim for the remainder of the damages (claim splitting). Also, the plaintiff in a small claims case has NO right to appeal. The decision is final.

If you have a dispute with a party that you engaged with solely online, you may not be able to proceed with your case in San Francisco. If the work was performed in San Francisco by you, then you may file in San Francisco. However, you are required to serve your defendant within the State of California. So, if you enter into a contract for work with someone from another state, you would not be able to use the San Francisco Small Claims Court to resolve your dispute because you will not be able to serve your defendant within the state. You may not mail service to your defendant or have a third party serve your defendant in another state. There are only two exceptions to this rule: 1) If you get into an auto accident in this state and your defendant resides in another state, 2) If you rent property in California from a person or business located in another state.


Click on the questions below for more information

You can sue the driver and the owner(s) of the car. You cannot sue the driver’s or owner’s insurance company.

If you are suing a business, you must first find out how the business is owned. If the business is a sole proprietorship and is using a fictitious business name, such as “Tony’s Tires”, you must look up that business name with the County in which the business is located. In San Francisco, you may visit the Fictitious Business Search to find out who owns Tony’s Tires. You will then name your defendant, “Tony Smith DBA Tony’s Tires.” Is it a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), a corporation (Corp. Inc.), or a limited liability partnership (LLP)? If it is an LLC or a Corp. (Inc.), you must locate the agent for service of process. Go to the California Secretary of State’s Business Search to locate the agent for service. The agent for service is NOT to be named as a defendant. The agent is only served the paperwork

Here is an example of this

If you were suing McDonalds Corporation, you would locate the agent for service by going to California Secretary of State’s Business Search and locate the agent for service. The records you will find will list the correct corporate name, the corporation’s address, the agent for service of process and the agent’s address. The defendant is the McDonald’s Corporation. The address on the plaintiff’s claim form is the corporation’s address, not the Agent for Service of Process’ address. When serving the papers, if using certified mail through the court, list the agent for service like this:

  • Name: Put the agent’s name here
  • Title: Put “agent for service of process” here
  • Company: Put the company’s name that you are suing
  • Street:Put the agent’s address here
  • City & Zip: Put the agent’s city and address here

you should start by naming the location (the retailer) where you purchased the product. Then name the wholesaler of the product, the one that provided the retailer the product. If you don’t know the information, contact the retailer and ask. Then name the manufacturer of the product. The name of the manufacturer should be on the packaging.

name the party that entered into the contract, whether that is the management company or the property owner. If the property owner signed the contract or entered into the oral agreement, then the property owner would be the only defendant.

If you are suing a government (state or city) for an injury, only name the “City and County of San Francisco” or the “State of California,” and not a specific city employee, unless you are alleging that the injury was inflicted outside the scope of the employee’s job.

Here's an example

If you were injured on a Muni bus, you would not name the driver personally unless you are alleging the driver was drunk or attacked you or did something outside of the scope of his employment duties.


Click on the questions below for more information

Up to two years from the date of the injury, or if the injury was not immediately discovered, two years from the date it was discovered.

up to two years from the date the contract was breached

up to four years from the date the contract was breached.

up to three years from the date the damage occurred

up to three years from the date the fraud was discovered.

you must first file a claim with the governmental body within 180 days from the date the incident occurred. If that claim is rejected, you must sue within 6 months after your claim is rejected by the public entity.  


Click on the questions below for more information

Who signed the lease agreement?  Your defendant(s) for your small claims case may be the landlord (or master-tenant) or a management company, if the management company or its agent signed your lease.

If you have a written lease, make sure you bring a copy to court.

If you did not give proper notice, you may not be entitled to your deposit.

The law requires notice in writing, but the court has, on occasion, accepted oral notice.

If the deposit was paid to another roommate or an outgoing roommate, the “landlord” may not be liable for its return. Your defendant may be the person you consider to be your “roommate”.

The law requires the landlord to give you a walk-through if you request it. If no walk-through was conducted, the landlord may be prohibited from withholding damages to the property from your deposit.

If damages are found, you should be given an opportunity to repair them before any deductions for such repairs can be withheld from your security deposit.

The law requires that you receive receipts or copies of receipts with the itemized deductions from your security deposit.

If you were given a partial return, was it by check? If so, did you get a copy of the check before you deposited that check? Having the landlord’s bank information will make collection of your judgment easier.

It is a good practice that you ask your landlord to pay you before you file a small claims case. Also, mediation is a possible option and alternative to filing a lawsuit.  Inquire with the ACCESS Center for mediation referrals.

It is possible that you may sue the owner of the building and the management company to get your deposit back. To find out who owns a building, go to the recorder/assessor’s office in the county where the property is located.

If yes, consider naming the management company as a co-defendant in the case, especially if the management company signed a lease with you.

Examples: You added a garage space, or gave up one, added a pet, added a roommate, or made any other changes to your lease that might affect the total security deposit that is in dispute. Make sure you request the most updated amount owed to you in your small claims case.

The law states that If the landlord did not return your security deposit within 21 days from when you vacated the rental unit, you may ask for additional damages pursuant to California Civil Code section 1950.5(l). This statute states that you may ask for up to twice the amount of the security deposit, in addition to actual damages. Inquire with the ACCESS Center to calculate the total amount owed


Click on the questions below for more information

If not, you cannot sue for the damage to the car. You cannot sue for property that you do not own.

If no, make sure to add the owner as a co-defendant (2nd defendant).

If outside of San Francisco, defendant must live in San Francisco or the case cannot be heard San Francisco.

If defendant moved after accident, plaintiff cannot file in San Francisco unless the accident happened in San Francisco.

The incident must have happened within the last 3 years for property damage and within the last 2 years for personal injury.

If it is for over $12,500 (for all claims relating to the accident), you must file it in a higher court, or forever waive the excess amount. Also, you may not split a claim that exceeds $12,500 into smaller separate cases, e.g. sue for $6,000 in one case and sue for $5,000 in another case for the same related accident. That is called “claim splitting” and is strictly prohibited.


Click on the questions below for more information

You have 6 months to file a claim with the government agency from the date of your injury if it is for personal injury or property damage. If you are suing for breach of contract, you have one year from the date of your injury to file a claim with the government agency in question.

You must file a claim with the government agency on its own claim form before filing a small claims case in court.

If not, you cannot yet file a small claim, unless 45 days has passed since submission of the agency claim.

Often, court customers want to sue a government agency (specifically, the San Francisco Police Department) if they have been arrested, harassed or caused any other type of emotional distress by an SFPD officer. You can request this, but it is up to you to determine the appropriate amount (i.e. $5000). You must quantify your pain and suffering accordingly and will need to explain how you came up with their dollar amount. For example, if a man was arrested and wants to sue the SFPD for $5,000 to account for his injuries, pain, and suffering, he could state that $1,000 was for medical bills, $2,000 was for lost wages, $1,000 accounts for humiliation x5 days in jail, etc.


Click on the questions below for more information

If you do not have a license or the license is or was not current during the entire project, money cannot be recovered by a plaintiff in a small claims case.

Any business, not just contractors, using a fictitious business name must have registered that name with the county clerk, and the registration must be current or that business cannot sue. Also, if business was done under the business name (check invoice or paperwork), then the lawsuit must be filed under that same business name. The business owner cannot omit the name of the business to circumvent the above-mentioned requirement


Click on the questions below for more information

If not located in San Francisco, was the work performed in San Francisco? If not, you may not file your case in San Francisco.

If in San Francisco, you can file in San Francisco.

If you were an employee, you can file a claim with the Labor Department instead of proceeding in small claims. Independent contractors are not allowed to file claims with the Labor Department.

Plaintiff can ask for additional damages pursuant to California Labor Code section 203, which states that if an employer fails to pay the wages of his or her employee who has been discharged or who has quit, the wages of the employee will continue to accrue at the same rate and must be paid, but shall not continue to be paid to that employee after 30 days of accrual. An employee who refuses payment by the employer is not entitled to the benefit of payment under this section


Click on the questions below for more information

You must attempt to cash or deposit the check before you file your small claims.

The action must be filed in court within one year from when the check was written.

You must send a notice to the defendant. Inquire with the ACCESS Center for a sample notice.

Yes.  California Civil Code Section 1719 allow you to ask the Court to award you damages in addition to the amount of the bounced check. But first, it requires you to send the person or business who sent you the check a written notice that you are demanding your money and you are giving them notice of your intent to sue them to recover that money and additional damages if you are not paid within 30 days.  

Any person who passes a check on insufficient funds shall be liable to the payee for damages equal to treble (three times) the amount of the check if a written demand for payment is mailed by certified mail to the person who had passed a check on insufficient funds and the written demand informs this person of (A) the provisions of this section, (B) the amount of the check, and (C) the amount of the service charge payable to the payee.

The person who had passed a check on insufficient funds shall have 30 days from the date the written demand was mailed to pay the amount of the check, the amount of the service charge payable to the payee, and the costs to mail the written demand for payment.

If this person fails to pay in full the amount of the check, the service charge payable to the payee, and the costs to mail the written demand within this period, this person shall then be liable instead for the amount of the check, minus any partial payments made toward the amount of the check or the service charge within 30 days of the written demand, and damages equal to treble (three times) that amount, which shall not be less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500). When a person becomes liable for treble (three times) damages for a check that is the subject of a written demand, that person shall no longer be liable for any service charge for that check and any costs to mail the written demand.


Click on the questions below for more information

California law requires that plaintiffs give medical malpractice defendants 90 days' notice prior to instituting a lawsuit.

The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claims is found in California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5. It states, in an action for injury or death against a health care provider based upon such person's alleged professional negligence, the time for the commencement of action shall be three years after the date of injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first. In no event shall the time for commencement of legal action exceed three years unless tolled for any of the following:  (1) upon proof of fraud, (2) intentional concealment, or (3) the presence of a foreign body, which has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect, in the person of the injured person.

Actions by a minor shall be commenced within three years from the date of the alleged wrongful act except that actions by a minor under the full age of six years shall be commenced within three years or prior to his eighth birthday whichever provides a longer period. Such time limitation shall be tolled for minors for any period during which parent or guardian and defendant's insurer or health care provider have committed fraud or collusion in the failure to bring an action on behalf of the injured minor for professional negligence.

To proceed in Court for a case of medical malpractice, you must first give the healthcare provider you which to sue, notice of your injury and intent to file a lawsuit. The requirements for that notice are as follows:

No action based upon the health care provider’s professional negligence may be commenced unless the defendant has been given at least 90 days’ prior notice of the intention to commence the action. No particular form of notice is required, but it shall notify the defendant of the legal basis of the claim and the type of loss sustained, including with specificity the nature of the injuries suffered. The notice may be served in the manner prescribed in Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 1010) of Title 14 of Part 2. If the notice is served within 90 days of the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, the time for the commencement of the action shall be extended 90 days from the service of the notice. The provisions of this section shall not be applicable with respect to any defendant whose name is unknown to the plaintiff at the time of filing the complaint and who is identified therein by a fictitious name, as provided in Section 474.

For the purposes of this section: “Health care provider” means any person licensed or certified pursuant to Division 2 (commencing with Section 500) of the Business and Professions Code, or licensed pursuant to the Osteopathic Initiative Act, or the Chiropractic Initiative Act, or licensed pursuant to Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1440) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code; and any clinic, health dispensary, or health facility, licensed pursuant to Division 2 (commencing with Section 1200) of the Health and Safety Code. “Health care provider” includes the legal representatives of a health care provider;

“Professional negligence” means negligent act or omission to act by a health care provider in the rendering of professional services, which act or omission is the proximate cause of a personal injury or wrongful death, provided that such services are within the scope of services for which the provider is licensed and which are not within any restriction imposed by the licensing agency or licensed hospital.

Self-Help Small Claims Mediation Program 


Case information is available at S.F. Superior Court Online Services. You must have the case number or party name for an inquiry.


See Small Claims Instructions for what you need to file your Small Claims case.

To request a Small Claims Forms by mail, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Small Claims Division, 400 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA 94102. The Small Claims Packet with envelope weighs 3 ounces.

Small Claims Video Conference Appearance Packet

Need an Interpreter?

Court interpreters are experts in language and are assigned to accurately interpret court proceedings. They are not parties to a case, have no interest in any case, and remain completely neutral in all matters. A court interpreter works for the court and does not represent any party. A court interpreter's sole responsibility is to bridge the communication barrier in order to provide limited English proficient users with access to Justice.

How to request an interpreter

If you need an interpreter, please email and provide the case name, case number, the language needed, date, location, and your contact information.

Parties involved in Criminal, Traffic, Juvenile, Civil or Family cases also may request the services of an interpreter from the Clerk’s office or the courtroom clerk. If an interpreter is not available at the time of the hearing, the Court may continue the case until an interpreter can be assigned.

All requests must be made in advance with as much notice as possible, and prior to the hearing (a minimum two-business day notice for Spanish and five (5) business days for all other languages).

Note: State law (EC § 756) has specified an order of priority for providing interpreters to civil litigants. We ask that you submit a request for interpreter services and allow us to make an effort to provide you with language assistance. If an interpreter cannot be provided by the Court, you may bring in your own certified, registered, or qualified interpreter.

To search for an interpreter in the State Judicial Branch online directory, visit:

Search for an Interpreter

Was this helpful?

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.