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How do I Appeal a Small Claims Case I Lost? (California)

You lost your case against the other party, but you may be able to appeal if the case was originally filed against you.

If you are the Defendant on a Plaintiff's Claim (the Plaintiff sued you) OR if you are the Plaintiff on the Defendant's counterclaim (the Defendant sued you), you have the option to appeal a judgment against you.

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Appealing a case means that you are asking the Superior Court to change the Small Claims Court's original decision. An appeal is also commonly referred to as "Trial de Novo" or "New Trial" because your case will be heard by a new judge. This new judge will be part of the Superior Court (not Small Claims Court).

Key things to keep in mind before you file an appeal:

  • You have 30 days from the date of your judgment to file the appeal. This judgement date is most often when you receive the judgment in writing from the court.

  • You (and the other side) have the option to be represented by a lawyer.

  • The appeal is heard for the original amount.

  • If you were sued for $1,000, but the judgment against you is $250, the appeal will be heard at $1,000. It's possible that the judge will award the full $1,000 to the other side if you lose the appeal.

  • You do not have to pay the Small Claims Court judgment while your appeal is being processed.

  • If the court finds the appeal filed was to harass the other party, the court may award the other party up to $1,000 in attorney's fees, up to $1,000 in lodging/transportation in connection with the appeal, and any actual lost earnings.

  • This is different than a motion to vacate a default judgment. If you lost because you did not attend your hearing, you will have a "default judgment". To get cancel this default judgment, you have to file a motion to vacate (cancel) the judgment. Do not appeal the default judgment.


How to file an appeal:

  1. Fill out the "Notice of Appeal (Small Claims)" Form SC-140.

  2. Pay the filing fee and file the completed form at the Small Claim's clerk's office where your case was originally heard

  3. The clerk's office will notify you and the other party of the new hearing date by mail. The court will mail you the date and time of your hearing on the appeal.

  4. The hearing on your appeal will be in the civil division of the superior court.


Prepare and attend the appeal hearing:

Prepare for your appeal hearing similar to how you prepared for your first hearing and bring all your evidence and witnesses. Do not expect the appeals judge to have access to any evidence you previously submitted. If you have new evidence, be sure to bring those as well.

At the hearing, present your case in full all over again. The new judge will look at everything as if the case is being decided for the first time.

You can choose to hire an attorney for the appeal. If you want any recoverable costs paid for by the other party, be sure to speak up and ask during the appeal hearing and show proof (receipts, bills) that you are owed those costs. If you win, the judge may award you $150 in attorney fees and up to $150 for your actual loss of earnings, expenses of transportation, and lodging incurred in connection with the appeal.


What happens after your appeal:

If you win the appeal you filed, the judgment is final and you will owe the other party nothing.

If you lose the appeal you filed:

  • There is no 30-day waiting period, you owe the other party what is decided on the appeal immediately.

  • You will be ordered to pay the amount of judgment plus interest and costs.

  • Interest will accrue at 10% for each year the judgment is not paid.

  • Examples of costs that may be owed to the other party:

  • Costs associated with filing and service of process

  • Any earnings the Plaintiff can prove were lost

  • Any transportation or lodging costs associated with the appeal

  • Attorney's fees up to $150.

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