Recovery in a Los Angeles Small Claims Court

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    Executive Summary

    I was able to use a Los Angeles Small Claims Court to recover the money I paid for a cylinder head for my 1932 Club Sedan without ever leaving my home in Houston, Texas, 1100 miles away. And if you ever need a process server in the Los Angeles area, I recommend Richard Lopez at

    Some of My Experiences

    I just went through a lengthy process to recover $1400 that I had paid to former PAS member Edmund McCormick for an aluminum cylinder head that he never delivered. Since some of what I learned might be useful to other PAS members, here are some of my experiences.

    1. Rules and forms for using the Los Angeles small claims court system are online. You can start at

    2. Los Angeles (and I suppose most other) small claims court rules say that you or a designated representative must be present for a small claims trial. But by asking the court, I received permission to represent myself in court by written statement. This was very important to me as I live in Houston, Texas, 1100 miles from Los Angeles. Some courts also allow representation by telephone, but the court I sued in was not set up for that.

    3. You can actually speak by telephone to a small claims court advisor to get questions answered that may be specific to your case. I was very much impressed by this as no such service exists in Houston, Texas.

    4. Unexpectedly to me, one of the hardest parts of setting a trial date was the preliminary step of process serving the defendant. I had already found that the defendant would not sign for a certified letter, so there was no point in having the court attempt to serve him in this manner. So I paid the Pasadena Sheriff $30 to serve the defendant in person, but no one would answer the door at any of the three service attempts. I finally hired a private process serving agency (Los Angeles Process Serving) to stake out the house. Finally, in this manner, and after paying them a total of $190, service was made to the defendant’s wife. And finally, this prompted a series of three payments totaling the $1400 that was owed me by the defendant, so I didn’t have to send in my written material for the trial.

    5. It was perhaps a mixed blessing that I didn’t go to trial, as I would have then asked for an additional $265 to cover some of the expenses that I incurred in setting and preparing for the trial.

    6. I spent many, many hours organizing evidence for the trial. These trials typically last only 10 to 15 minutes, and because I was allowed to appear by written statement, I would not even be physically present. So I had to gather and arrange all my considerable evidence in a very organized and easy to follow manner.

    7. I highly recommend Richard Lopez at for process serving in the Los Angeles area.

    8. I praise Los Angeles for having established a small claims court system that allowed a “little guy” from out of town to recover the money that was owed to him without having to travel 1100 miles for the trial.

    I once again recommend that our web site include a section where we could make comments about the suppliers listed in our Parts and Services Directory. Since other PAS members had had previous bad experiences with Edmund McCormick, such a section could have saved me many hours of court preparation.

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