The maximum principal amount a Pennsylvania Magisterial District Court can award—the court’s jurisdictional limit—is $12,000. So what do you do if the amount of your claim is $13,000 or even $14,000?
Pennsylvania court rules allow you to file in Magisterial District Court on claim exceeding the 12,000 jurisdictional limit if you waive that part of claim in excess of the $12,000 limit. Typically on claims worth more than $12,000, the plaintiff will bypass Magisterial District Court and file in the county court of common pleas, where is there is no dollar limit on claims. But this isn’t always the best approach. Why?
The process in the county court of common pleas can be long, complex and expensive, usually involving thousands of dollars in legal fees. So if you have a claim worth more than $12,000, whether it be $13,000, $14,000 or more, and you would like to take advantage of the relatively quick, simple and inexpensive process afforded by the PA small claims court system, you can file that claim in Magisterial District Court, so long as the amount you demand in your complaint is limited to $12,000.
If you are waiving amounts in excess of $12,000 in order to file in PA small claims court, it is advisable that your complaint specifically say so, in order to make clear that your actual claim is larger. Here’s the reason: if the case does go up on appeal to the county court of common pleas, you will have the right to pursue the full value of your claim without being bound to your earlier waiver of amounts in excess of the $12,000 jurisdictional limit.
That’s why your small claims complaint should note that you are waiving amounts in excess of $12,000. If your opponent knows up front that the size of your claim will increase if the case is appealed, your opponent may be less likely to appeal a small claims court decision in your favor.