How to appeal in small claims

Updated March 23, 2017

If you have lost a case in small claims court, you may want to investigate the small claims appeal process. With basic information about small claims appeals, you can determine whether such action warrants your time and is economically viable. Plaintiffs and defendants are limited in their abilities to appeal small claims decisions. If you can file a small claims appeal, prepare a Notice of Appeal, and determine whether you can and/or want to hire an attorney.

Determine whether the judgment can be appealed. This possibility depends on the state in which you live. Some states limit small claims appeals to the party who was sued. According to the California Court Self-Help Center, for example, only the defendant can appeal. In other cases, according to the website, All Business, only a "mistake of law," "not a mistake on the facts of the case" is cause for an appeal in some states. Contact the county court clerk for the county in which you live.

Verify that you are still in the window of time for appealing. All Business explains that small claims appeals generally must be filed any time between 10 and 30 days from the court's decision. As soon you receive the Notice of Entry of Judgment in the mail, contact the county court clerk to find out whether you can appeal.

Prepare the Notice of Appeal according to your state's guidelines. Obtain the Notice of Appeal from your county court clerk, who will inform you of your state's rules for filing. The California Court Self-Help Center explains that you should file an appeal with the small claims court. The hearing takes place the superior court.

Determine whether you need to hire an attorney. According to All Business, unlike small claims court, a small claims appeal plaintiff has the right to an attorney. Small claims appeals are heard in formal court, thereby allowing you the right to an attorney. At the very least, you may want to consult with an attorney before you file an appeal to determine whether you should appeal a small claims decision.


Prepare to present your case all over again, as you did in the original hearing. On the court date, bring any witnesses and all supporting documentation.


According to the state of California, for example, if you lose, you may have to pay the plaintiff's costs, plus any interest accrued, attorney's fees and possible "bad faith" fees. (See References 3)

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About the Author

Alyson Paige has a master's degree in canon law and began writing professionally in 1998. Her articles specialize in culture, business and home and garden, among many other topics.