How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Ely Your Own Question
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 99416
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
Type Your Legal Question Here...
Ely is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Hi, I am wondering how I need to compile paperwork and what

This answer was rated:

Hi, I am wondering how I need to compile paperwork and what evidence is needed to successfully sue someone in small claims court for defamation, in my county of Santa Cruz, CA. An ex housemate began spreading rumors claiming that I stole $700 from her. She wrote this in a message to a client of mine, who was also my housemate.

I am a new business owner and since receiving this message, my client cancelled our working relationship and I've lost thousands of dollars. I have a photo of the message sent to my client. Because the client no longer wants to pay for anything, she is now perpetuating the lies started by the original housemate (with more evidence that I have, a photo of a message that was sent to a 3rd party)

Also, I've been dealing with the reverberations of this debacle for almost the last 5 months. I've lost friends, my reputation has been damaged and have even had a friend of the initial accuser post on my Facebook Wall, where I have over 1000 friends and potential clients that could have seen this post. How do I assess the monetary damage in accordance with the law?

Lengthy question, but I appreciate your help!
Hello friend. My name is XXXXX XXXXX welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice, and, (2) there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am sorry for your situation. You can only sue for up to $10,000 in small claims court. Is this what you are seeking, or, do you wish to sue for more?

This is not an answer, but an Information Request. I need this information to answer your question. Please reply, so I can answer your question. Thank you in advance.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I don't feel the need to sure for more than 10,000$ I also don't know if I'd even be able to... as a new business owner my funds are spread extremely thin! Thank you!


Okay. As I understand it you are seeking to know how to file in Court and what you can claim. I will type this out but please allow me a few moments to do so because this will have to cover a lot of grounds. Finally, what county is this in and is your business incorporated or not?

Once you reply, again, apologies in advance for the momentary wait while I am typing out your answer.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

county of Santa Cruz, CA. My business is not incorporated. But I would do that if I needed to. :)

Thank you. No need to incorporate just for this.

To sue in a state court, one needs to have a "cause of action." There are numerous causes of action, such as "breach of contract," "negligence," "fraud," "unjust enrichment," etc., as well as causes of action rooted in statutory law. Every state has their own although they are very similar to each other in every state. Every cause of action has its own elements, and each element has to be satisfied for a cause of action to be successful in court.

This may be cause for defamation and possibly interference with prospective economic advantage.

The elements of a defamation claim are:

publication of a statement of fact that is false, unprivileged, has a natural tendency to injure or which causes "special damage," and the defendant's fault in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence. Cal. Civ. Code §§ 44, 45a, and 46.

Defamation PER SE is a type of special defamation where the falsity hurts one's business. Cal. Civ. Code § 45a; Yow v. National Enquirer, Inc. 550 F.Supp.2d 1179, 1183 (E.D. Cal. 2008). If you can show defamation per se, damages are ASSUMED and do not have to be proven, making the claim easier.

These elements are usually stated as follows: (1) an economic relationship between the plaintiff and some third party, with the probability of future economic benefit to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant's knowledge of the relationship; (3) intentional acts on the part of the defendant designed to disrupt the relationship; (4) actual disruption of the relationship; and (5) economic harm to the plaintiff proximately caused by the acts of the defendant. Westside Center Associates v. Safeway Stores 23, Inc. (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 507, 521-522, 49 Cal. Rptr.2d 793..

Do not worry, the Court does not expect you to be like a lawyer in Court. The Court expects individuals to explain their complaint and then in small claims, the Judge usually helps to 'develop' the case and put into into a legal perspective, and then renders a decision.

The suit begins with a COMPLAINT which is filed with the Court. Then other side then is served, they file an Answer, and down the line, trial is held where both sides get to argue their case.

The step by step information on how to file a small claims court in Santa Cruz may be found here. Specifically, please review Read Information for the Small Claims Plaintiff Form SC-100-INFO.

There is even a Small Claims Advisor attorney who may be reached at(NNN) NNN-NNNN

Finally, I am providing you with a SAMPLE COMPLAINT link - here. One can simply take out the cause of action in the same (fraud) and put in defamation and interference as described above.

I hope this helps and clarifies. I have tried to include everything, but, if there is anything you specifically wish to know about that is not mentioned, please use the REPLY button to ask me. Best of luck!

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. Kindly rate my answer as one of the top three faces before submitting the rating, as this is how I get credit for my time with you. Rating my answer the bottom two faces does not give me credit and reflects poorly on me, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith. (You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating.)
Ely and 3 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks so much for your help! :)

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I just realized an important part of my question was "How do I assess the monetary damage in accordance with the law?"


Can you help with that?

Hello and thank you for your follow up.

There is no specific way here. One tries to use what one has earned in the months prior to the defamation (and/or the same months last year) and compare it to the months now, perhaps. In the end, it is whatever may be proven to the Court.