A BRIEF PRIMER ON FILING CASES IN CALIFORNIA

Say you are have been damaged by the acts or omissions of a person or company and want to file a lawsuit. Which court do you file that lawsuit in, and do you get the right to a jury trial? This article will answer these questions.

STATE OR FEDERAL COURT

California has courts that are both state and federal. Federal courts typically hear only cases that involve federal law, or actions between citizens of different states, called diversity jurisdiction, and involve damages of at least $75,000. All other cases are decided in state courts.

LIMITED OR UNLIMITED JURISDICTION

Cases in California state courts are either limited jurisdiction or unlimited jurisdiction. Limited jurisdiction cases have maximum damages of no more than $25,000. Unlimited jurisdiction cases have damages of $25,000, and above. There is no upper limit on the amount of damages that can be awarded in a California unlimited jurisdiction case.

JUDGE OR JURY TRIAL

There is a Constitutional right to a jury trial, but only in certain types of cases. When a party seeks equitable relief, such as an injunction, or an accounting, there is no right to a jury trial. In most other cases, including those in which damages are sought, there is a right to a jury trial, if properly requested, and if jury fees are timely paid.

SELECTING THE COUNTY IN WHICH TO SUE

California is a big State that has many different cities and counties. A plaintiff generally must file the case in the county where the defendant resides. If there is more than one defendant, the county in which any of the defendants resides can typically be selected.

Where the defendant is a corporation, the case can generally be filed in the county where its principal place of business is located. In cases involving contracts, a corporation can be sued where the contract was made, or was to be performed. A corporation can also be sued where the obligation or liability arose, or where the injury occurred.

If a defendant believes the case has been filed in the wrong county, he or she can make a motion to transfer venue to the proper county. A corporation has the same right to seek a transfer of venue, but a tougher burden since a corporation can oftentimes be sued in more counties than an individual.

Kenneth E. Chyten, Esq.
LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH E. CHYTEN

THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE THE CONTENTS OF THIS DOCUMENT IS INTENDED TO BE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND TO GIVE A VERY BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF VARIOUS PRINCIPALS RELATING TO CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE LAW. IT IS INTENDED ONLY FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES AND IS NOT MEANT TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR COMMENT AS TO ANY PARTICULAR SITUATION OR SET OF FACTS. FOR SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE CONCERNING A PARTICULAR SITUATION, THE AUTHOR STRONGLY SUGGESTS THAT YOU CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.