• Yin Seo

How to Appeal a Small Claims Court Decision

Updated: Oct 29


Small claims court judge gavel and sound block on a wooden table next to an ipad. Ipad has graphic of a dollar bill hovering over an open palm.


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.


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).


Before You File

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.

 

NEED HELP WITH YOUR JUSTICE JOURNEY?


The quest for justice is never easy, particularly when it comes to getting your money back. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become easier. Quest for Justice’s first app, JusticeDirect, is the only app of its kind designed to support people without lawyers resolve their dispute and get their money back, both in and out of court. The first step to getting money back is through a letter demanding payment from the other party JusticeDirect offers customizable demand letters for free. If the letter demanding payment does not work, then the next step is taking them to court. JusticeDirect* will guide users every step of the way through the small claims court process by helping them:

  1. Understand the legal process;

  2. Evaluate the pros and cons that come with taking someone to court;

  3. Generate small claims court forms; and,

  4. Avoid common mistakes when filing your forms and serving notice on the other side.

*Currently, JusticeDirect can only help litigants sue in California’s small claims court.

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