Updated on February 6, 2020
Depending on the nature of your claim, filing in limited jurisdiction could perhaps be an option. There are some benefits to filing suit in limited jurisdiction over unlimited jurisdiction. If in doubt, you should explore the options with an attorney. This blog introduces the types of cases allowed in limited jurisdiction, the goals set by the superior court for disposing of limited cases, and some discovery rules specific to limited actions.
In general, a case is deemed a limited civil action when the amount in controversy does not exceed $25,000. (Civ. Proc. Code, §§ 85, 86.) The amount in controversy is set by the amount demanded in the complaint. (Civ. Proc. Code, § 85, subd. (a).) However, attorney fees, interest and costs are excluded from the amount in controversy. (Id.)
By way of example, an unlawful detainer action where claimed damages do not exceed $25,000 is a limited action. (Civ. Proc. Code, § 86, subd. (a)(4).) On the contrary, cases that are not considered limited actions include, but are not limited to, the following:
There is a real impact to filing an action as limited matter instead of unlimited. Courts presiding over limited actions have no authority to award a judgment in excess of $25,000. (Ytuarte v. Superior Court (2005) 129 Cal. App. 4th 266; Civ. Proc. Code, § 403.040, subd. (e).) This is different from unlimited jurisdiction cases where courts are authorized to award more or less than $25,000. (Id.) The caveat being, that the trial court has the discretion to deny costs to the prevailing party when the matter was filed as unlimited, but the amount recovered is less than $25,000. (Civ. Proc. Code, § 1033; Steele v. Jensen Instrument Co. (1997) 59 Cal. App. 4th 326.)
Limited actions are designed to be disposed of more swiftly than their unlimited counterparts. Per local court rules, trial courts should manage their limited actions so that 90 percent are disposed of within 12 months; 98% are disposed of within 18 months; and 100% are disposed of within 24 months. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.714.) In accordance with this more expeditious nature, discovery in limited actions is also limited. Specifically, when taking discovery, a party is only allowed to use a combination of thirty five of any of the following: (1) interrogatories with no subparts, (2) demands to produce documents or things, and (3) requests for admission with no subparts. (Civ. Proc. Code, §§ 94, subd. (a), 2030.010, 2031.010 and 2033.010.)
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