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  • Carol Highfill

Civil Law Suits in California

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

What is a civil lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit is a case filed in the court through which private citizens or businesses (sole proprietors, partnerships, or corporations) sue each other for any claim that has not been settled out of the court. Breaking a criminal law is not a civil case and will not be treated as such.

What disputes are treated as civil lawsuits or cases?

There are different kinds of cases that may be filed in a civil court. Some common kinds of civil cases or lawsuits are:

Small claims cases: These are lawsuits between individuals or companies for an amount of up to $10,000. In such cases, the parties are not allowed to have a lawyer.

General civil cases: These are cases in which someone sues another one or more persons for money in disputes in respect of contracts, personal injury, or damage to property.

Landlord/tenant cases: The cases filed by the landlord for eviction of a tenant from the rental property or by the tenant for unlawful eviction or getting back his or her security deposit from the landlord are also civil cases.

Personal Injury or damage to property: A personal injury caused in a road accident or other negligent act or damage to property caused by a wrongful act of another person is also treated as a civil claim and filed in the civil court.

Breach of Contract claims: In case one of the parties to a contract breaches the contract, the non-breaching party may file a civil suit in the court for damages, injunction, or a declaratory judgment.

What are the three most common types of civil cases?

There are many types of civil cases but the most common types of civil suits are related to contracts, property, and torts.

Contract Disputes: A contract dispute occurs in the case when a party to a contract cannot or does not fulfil the obligations stipulated in the contract.

Property Disputes: Property disputes occur when a person causes any damage to the property of the other person. A common property dispute is a property line dispute in which the plaintiff claims that the other party has crossed the boundary line between their properties.

Torts: A tort is a civil case in which one party alleges that the other party has caused him physical or emotional harm. The harm can relate to a person’s body or his property due to any act including road or other accidents and negligence on the part of the defendant party.  

How much can a plaintiff collect in a civil lawsuit?

An individual plaintiff or sole proprietors can claim any amount in claim according to the facts of the case. However, in case the amount of claim is less than $10,000, the claim will be treated as a small claim and will be filed in the Small Claim Court. In case the plaintiff is a business, the claim up to $5,000 will be filed in the Small Claim Court. Any claims greater than the above-mentioned limits will go to Civil courts. However, under the California Code, there are some exceptions to the limit for individuals:

A natural person can sue a guarantor for up to $6,500 and $2,500 if they do not charge for the guarantee. In the case of an entity other than a natural person, the plaintiff can file a claim for up to $4,000 if the guarantor charges for its services.

The small claims including others are:

• Landlord/tenant security deposits

• Property damage or personal injury from a car accident;

• Damage to property by a neighbor;

• Disputes with contractors about repairs or home improvement jobs;

• Homeowner association disputes;

• Collection of money owed.

What are the 6 steps in a civil case?

In order to file a civil law case, the claimant (the plaintiff) must prepare himself before filing the case. Once he is prepared, he has to go through a certain process before the final outcome of the suit. The steps involved in a civil suit are:

Pre-filling stage: This is the stage when the dispute arises plaintiff and the other party gather information and tries to negotiate for a resolution. The parties also prepare for a possible court case in case of failure.

Pleading stage: When the parties fail to settle the dispute and the plaintiff decides to move to a court of law, they file papers (a "complaint") in the court to begin with. Upon receiving a notice of the case, the other party files his response to counter the claim or defend the suit.

Discovery stage: Once both the parties have filed their pleadings, including the documents, they exchange information to learn about the points in their favor and against.

Pre-trial stage: During this stage, the parties start preparing for the trial by collecting/gathering the evidence and witnesses. At this stage, the parties may also engage in discussions for settlement, and in case of any positive outcome, they may file a motion to resolve the case.

Trial Stage: In case the discussion for settlement is not fruitful, the trial starts and the judge or a jury hears the case. The parties present their evidence, extend their arguments and the witnesses are examined. After the conclusion of the trial, the case is eventually decided and a judgment entered.

Post-trial stage: In case any of the parties is dissatisfied with the judgment, he can file an appeal in the appellate court for reversing the order.

What must the plaintiff prove in a civil case?

In most civil cases, the judge or jury decides the case on the basis of a standard called “preponderance of the evidence” meaning if you win, your side of the story is more believable than the story of the other side. However, in certain cases, the standard to prove a case is “clear and convincing evidence” which means that the winning party’s version of the facts has a high probability of being true or reasonably certain, or “substantially more likely than not.”

If you need any further information or advice on civil lawsuits in the state of California, feel free to contact us to our phone number 909-451-9819.

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