In the state of California, how could one find out if a commercial company had ever sued another company? How could one get the records of that litigation?

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In the state of California, how could one find out if a commercial company had ever sued another company?

The search is complex because there is no "one-stop shop" for this.

To search in federal court, go to pacer.gov.

To search in state trial court, contact the court of your county and ask whether it has a site for online case search. Other counties nearby might be using the same provider. For instance, the Washtenaw (in Michigan) county trial court gives public access to cases register of actions. Knowing that, it was easier for me to identify the analog for Wayne and Oakland counties. But Jackson county used a different provider. Likewise, California courts might be using Odyssey or other providers. There is no uniformity on this.

Keep in mind that an entity might have been involved in small claims court, which will not necessarily be reflected on the same site of county trial court.

To search for cases by party in California courts of appeal and supreme court, see here (the form to enter party appears after clicking on Search).

To search in the SCOTUS, see here.

Each court has its own policies for ordering records of the proceedings.

Leagle.com only displays decisions/opinions from appellate courts, supreme courts, and federal district courts. No litigation records are available from there. From personal experience as pro se litigant, I warn you that whatever you read in a court opinion does not necessarily reflect the actual evidence and arguments a party offered. Unfortunately, many courts are fond of distorting the record of a case for the sake of forcing an unlawful outcome.

Also beware that not all litigation happens in courts. A company could have gone through some Alternative Dispute Resolution method such as mediation or arbitration that might be of your interest nonetheless. Those proceedings would not be reflected in court sites unless at least one party escalates the issue (example: a party might appeal an arbitrator's ruling).

  • FWIW, most private investigators have access to databases that coordinate all of this data, albeit not always with perfect accuracy. A quick search like that from a PI can be pretty cheap, typically only 1-2 hours of time tops and often less. I believe CA uses a single database for attorneys for its state trial courts, but not sure it is available to the public. Also a google search catches any litigation notable enough to be reported upon in newspapers or mentioned by law firms on their own websites. Once one has a case number the case file can be obtained from the relevant clerk of court.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 16:59

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