Small Claims How to Name a Defendant Print this Page
Phone: (415) 444-7040
Location: Civic Center, Hall of Justice, Room 113
Office Hours: 8:00am - 4:00pm

Be sure to name the defendant correctly, as you will only be able to collect from the party whose name is exactly the same as the name that appears on your claim.

  • If you are suing an individual, enter the first name, middle initial and last name on your claim.
  • If you are suing a husband and wife, enter the husband's full name and the wife's full name. For example, enter James A. Jones and Sally R. Jones on your claim. Do not list parties as Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Each individual must be listed on a separate Defendant line.
  • If you are suing as a result of a vehicle accident, name both the registered owner and the driver. If the owner and driver are the same person enter, Sam Jones, owner and driver on your claim. If the owner and driver are not the same enter, Lucy Smith, owner and Betty Smith, driver on your claim. Each individual must be listed on a separate Defendant line.
  • If you are suing a company owned by one person, enter both the owner's and the company's name. You should also name the owner as an individual to increase your chances of collecting the judgment. Enter the letters "dba" which stands for "doing business as" between the name of the owner and the company name if the owner is doing business under a fictitious business name. For example, enter Sue Smith, individually & dba Continental Candies on your claim.
  • If you are suing a partnership, name both the partnership and the partners as individuals. For example, enter Jim Smith, individually and John Jones individually, and dba Smith & Jones on your claim. If you win your case, you will then be able to collect from either the partnership or the individual partners or both. Each individual must be listed on a separate Defendant line.
  • If you are suing a corporation, enter the exact name of the corporation. For example, Sally's Dresses, a corporation or Sally's Dresses, Inc. If a corporation owns a division or subsidiary you should designate the corporation as 'doing business as' the subsidiary. For example, Lotus Corporation, dba The Flower Company. When suing a corporation, you must list a corporate officer or agent for service underneath the corporation in parenthesis.

If you do not know the exact legal name of a business or corporation, check with the Marin County Clerk's Office, a state or local licensing agency, or the Office of the Secretary of State, California Business Portal.


Small Claims Court is a special type of civil proceeding which is commonly referred to as the "People's Court" because attorneys are not allowed to represent either side. The rules are relatively simple and the hearings are less formal. Parties in small claims actions can resolve their disputes relatively quickly and inexpensively. The person who files the claim is called the plaintiff and the person being sued is called the defendant.
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