What is a small claim in Pennsylvania?
A small claim under Pennsylvania law includes claims that are worth less than $12,000 and:
- Involves a contract law issue except contracts involving real estate,
- Involves a claim of trespass, or
- Involves fines and penalties imposed by a government agency
What is Small Claims Court in Pennsylvania?
The courts that handle small claims are magisterial district courts. The judges in these courts hear small civil claims and landlord-tenant issues along with being the first stop for criminal cases.
How does small claims court work?
In the magisterial district court, the person who files the suit (also known as the plaintiff) fills out a form that is called a civil complaint. In that complaint, the plaintiff tells the court why they are suing, who they are suing, and how much they plan to collect from the suit. For the court to accept the complaint, the plaintiff has to pay the filing fee. If the plaintiff wins, they can ask the court to make the defendant pay for the filing fee and other costs involved in filing. After the complaint is filed, a copy of it is served, or sent to the defendant letting them know about the suit and the date of the hearing. At the hearing, both sides argue their case and give evidence to the magistrate. After hearing the evidence, the court decides who wins. The losing party has the right to file an appeal if they are unhappy with the outcome.
How do I file in small claims court?
To file a complaint for a small claim in Pennsylvania, you have to go to the office of the magistrate who has jurisdiction of the case. Jurisdiction will depend on the facts of the case. For example, someone who is filing a claim for work that wasn’t done on a home would file in the magisterial district where the home is located.
How do I file for small claims court if I live in Pittsburgh?
If you live in Pittsburgh, you will have to go to the magisterial district judge for the jurisdiction the claim is in. Small claims are not filed at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court building, aka City Court.
What do I do if someone takes me to small claims court?
If someone files a complaint against you, this is something that you’ll want to take seriously. If you don’t appear for the hearing date, the court can rule against you. Whether you handle the claim by yourself or with the help of a lawyer, you’ll want to be sure that you do something to protect your rights. Some of the things you can do to start fighting the complaint are:
- Gather any evidence that you can find
- Make a list of witnesses
- Do research about the law the plaintiff is trying to use against you
- Look into hiring an attorney who has experience in small claims court
Should I hire a lawyer for a small claim?
It depends on what type of a claim you’re looking at. At minimum, you should consult with an attorney to help you figure out what your options are. In some cases, you may have defenses available that you wouldn’t know how to find on your own. In other cases, it’s helpful to have a lawyer go over everything with you so you have the best possible presentation to the court.
If you have any questions about small claims in the Pennsylvania, contact Pittsburgh area lawyer William R. Bickerton at (412) 596-8124