How do I “challenge Venue in Small Claims Court”?

faqVenue: Challenging Venue in Small Claims Court (CCP 116.370)

What is Venue?

Venue is the place of a cause of action and the jurisdiction where a case is heard.  A case must be filed in the correct court location and venue.  The appropriate venue must be one of the following:

  • Where the Defendant lives or Defendant’s business is located.
  • Where the Plaintiff’s property was damaged.
  • Where the Plaintiff was injured.
  • Where a contract (written or spoken) was made, signed, performed, or broken by the Defendant or where the Defendant lived or did business when the Defendant made the contract[1]

How Do I Challenge Venue?

If you feel that the plaintiff has filed in the wrong court, or venue, you may be able to challenge that venue.

  • Challenge venue by writing a letter to the court.  Address the letter to the judge (Dear Judge, name not needed), explaining why the plaintiff’s choice of venue was incorrect and send a copy of your letter to the other party.  Make sure you include a notation in the letter that you mailed it to the other party.

You may also:

  • Challenge venue by objecting to the venue at the hearing.  If the judge decides that the plaintiff’s choice of venue was proper, then the hearing will proceed. If the judge decides that the plaintiff’s choice of venue was improper, the case may be transferred to the proper venue or dismissed without prejudice.  If the case is dismissed, the plaintiff may then sue you in the proper venue.

NOTE: If you feel that it would be more convenient to have the hearing in the county selected by the plaintiff (because, for example, you live in a neighborhood county only five miles from the courthouse), you could appear at the hearing and waive (give up) your right to challenge venue.

Must I Appear at the Hearing?

If you have challenged venue by submitting a letter, you do not need to attend the hearing. If the judge believes the venue is proper and you are not present at the hearing, the judge cannot render a decision on the plaintiff’s claim and must postpone the hearing for 15 days.  If the judge believes the venue is improper, then the case will either be transferred or dismissed without prejudice.

Here is the exact language in the statute:CCP 116.370 (c)(2) If the court determines that the action was commenced in the proper venue and court location, the court may hear the case if all parties are present.  If the defendant challenged venue or courtlocation and all parties are not present, the court shall postponethe hearing for at least 15 days and shall notify all parties by mailof the court’s decision and the new hearing date, time, and place.

Even if you do not challenge venue, it is the judge’s obligation to find that the location of the hearing is proper.  Also, even if the location of the court selected by the plaintiff is correct the judge may, on rare occasion, transfer the case to another court that is more convenient for the parties and their witnesses (for example, you have many witnesses who must travel to the court from a distant location), the judge may order that the case be transferred to a court near that location.  In evaluating transfer requests, the courts give greater weight to the convenience of those disputants who are individuals rather than those that are legal entities such as corporations, partnerships, and public entities.

 

SAMPLE LETTER:

 

John Smith (Your name and address)

123 Sunnyside Ave.

San Francisco, CA 90000

(510) 555-1234

 

(DATE)

 

Judge of the Superior Court

County of Orange

700 Civic Center Dr.

Santa Ana, CA 92701

 

Re:      Improper Venue

 

Dear Judge,

 

I am the defendant in case number ________ and I wish to challenge the venue chosen by the plaintiff.  The current venue is improper because____________

(For example:  My business is located in San Francisco.  The plaintiff called me in San Francisco and ordered three boxes of widgets.  Those widgets were shipped from my facility in San Francisco.  The defendant sent payment to me in San Francisco yet, the defendant is suing me in Orange County). I believe the proper venue for this case is __________ (San Francisco because everything happened in San Francisco).  Thank you for your consideration.

 

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

__________________

John Smith

 

JS/

Copy:   Joe Plaintiff, 123 Melrose Pl., Santa Ana, CA 92701

(You need to show to the Judge that you sent a copy of this letter to the other party.)

 

For more information or assistance you can contact:

Small Claims Advisory Program
Legal Aid Society of Orange County
2101 N. Tustin Ave.

Santa Ana, CA 92705

Phone: (714) 571-5277

www.ocsmallclaims.com
Code of Civil Procedure:

www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html

Revised 6/12

[1] Other rarely used venue provisions

  • Where the buyer or lessee signed the contract, lives now, or lived when the contract was made, if a claim is about an offer or contract for personal, family, or household goods, services or loans. (CCP § 395(b))
  • Where the buyer signed the contract, lives now, or lived when the contract was made, if this claim is about a retail installment contract (like a credit card). (CC § 1812.10)
  • Where the buyer signed the contract, lives now, or lived when the contract was made, or where the vehicle is permanently garaged, if this claim is about a vehicle finance sale. (CC § 2984.4)

 

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