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FAQs

How much can I Sue for in PA Small Claims Court?
In What Court Should I Sue?
What if the Defendant Is Located or Lives in Another State?
How Long Does the Small Claims Process Take?
How Much Will the Small Claims Process Cost?
Can I Get Back My Filing Fees and Legal Fees?
Can I Resolve My Case Without Having to File Suit?
Can I Use Affidavits Instead of Live Witnesses?
Will I Be Able to Represent Myself?
Can Either Party Appeal a Small Claims Court Judgment?
 

How much can I Sue for in PA Small Claims Court?
As of January 22, 2011, the maximum amount a Pennsylvania Magisterial Court can award, or its jurisdictional limit, is $12,000. In Philadelphia Municipal Court, the maximum award is also now $12,000.



In What Court Should I Sue?
In most cases (with exceptions for cases against insurance companies), the suit should be filed in the magisterial district where the defendant lives or conducts business, or where the claim arose, or where an event took place out of which the claim arose.

 


What if the Defendant Is Located or Lives in Another State?
Generally speaking, if the claim arose in Pennsylvania or involves a product or service sold or shipped into Pennsylvania, the suit can be filed in Pennsylvania, and served upon the out-of-state Defendant by certified mail. But if the out-of-state Defendant fails to accept the certified mail, there may not be another effective option for forcing the Defendant to respond to your lawsuit.


How Long Does the Small Claims Process Take?
Case loads vary from court to court, but in most cases, the court will schedule a hearing within four or five weeks after the case is filed. In landlord-tenant cases for eviction, the hearing will be within seven to 15 days after the complaint is filed. The magisterial district court will generally issue a decision by mail within five business days after the hearing. And each party will then have 30 days to appeal the decision of the magisterial district court to the county court of common pleas. If the decision is not appealed within that 30-day period, the decision becomes a final judgment, and the plaintiff can then proceed to collect upon any monetary judgment.


How Much Will the Small Claims Process Cost?
The magisterial district court will charge a fee for the filing of your complaint. The amount of that fee will depend on the amount of your claim and the number of defendants you are suing. Typical filing fees are in the range of $100. Lawyers typically charge $500 to $750 or more to handle a case in small claims court.

SmallClaimAdvisor.com instead charges $125 to prepare a complaint in form ready to file, and to also provide you with both individualized tips on how to present your own case in small claims court and an e-booklet of procedural and evidentiary instructions on how to take your case through the small claims process from start to finish.


Can I Get Back My Filing Fees and Legal Fees?
Yes and no, in that order. If you win your case, the court will add the amount of your filing fees to your award. However, unless your case involves a specific statutory remedy or a contract term allowing for the award of legal fees, the court cannot award you your legal fees. Generally speaking, you should assume that you will not be able to recover your legal fees at the small claims court level, and so you should keep those fees to a minimum.  But if your claim is for a fixed sum, and if you win, the court can and should award you interest

Can I Resolve My Case Without Having to File Suit?
In many cases, a written demand for payment will be enough to persuade the defendant to voluntarily pay up before filing suit. In order to maximize chances for an amicable resolution without filing suit, the demand letter should threaten suit not just for the principal amount due, but also for the filing fees, legal interest and, if applicable, counsel fees, liquidated damages and other remedies available under consumer protection and employee protection statutes. SmallClaimAdvisor.com can prepare a demand letter for you to send your opponent for a flat fee of $50.00.


Can I Use Affidavits Instead of Live Witnesses?
No. Affidavits from witnesses who are not present in court to testify are hearsay, plain and simple. If no one objects to the introduction of such an affidavit, the court might allow the document into evidence, but if the party opposing an affidavit objects to it on grounds of hearsay, the court should sustain the objection and not allow the affidavit into evidence.


Will I Be Able to Represent Myself?
Yes. The rules of the Pennsylvania Magisterial District Court were written in order to make it possible for non-lawyers to represent themselves on Pennsylvania small claims. Document requirements are simplified and evidentiary rules are relaxed. But you still have to learn what law governs your claim, what details need to be included in your complaint, what documents you will have to introduce in order to win your claim, how to make and respond to objections, how to cross examine your opponents and what details to include in your closing argument. SmallClaimAdvisor.com can help you with these details so that you can effectively represent yourself in small claims court.


Can Either Party Appeal a Small Claims Court Judgment?
Yes. If either party is dissatisfied with the judgment of the Magisterial District Court, that party can appeal to county court of common pleas within 30 days after the entry of judgment by filing a one-page notice of appeal. Except in eviction cases (where the rules are quite different), once an appeal is properly filed, it will effectively wipe out the Magisterial District Court judgment, even if the appealing party did not bother to participate in the proceedings at the Magisterial District Court level. So while the Pennsylvania small claims system provides an effective and efficient process for resolving many small claims, it is important not to spend more money than necessary at the small claims level. You may need your resources for an appeal.

 
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