Pennsylvania Small Claims Court
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Business entities and individuals who are involved in legal disputes of less than $8,000 in value ($10,000 in Philadelphia) should file their lawsuit in Pennsylvania small claims court. This court system was designed to deal with cases that involve small dollar sums in an informal, simplified, and streamlined process that eliminates hassle and expense for all parties. The small claims system handles issues such as personal injury, property damage, landlord/tenant disputes, and contract issues.
You do not need an attorney to file a Pennsylvania small claim, though you may hire one if you choose. Corporations must be represented by an attorney except in special cases. Both individuals and business entities (partnerships, companies, corporations) may file a small claim in Pennsylvania or be sued in small claims court.
Claim Limit: Pennsylvania limits small claims to amounts under $10,000 in Philadelphia and $8,000 elsewhere in the state.
Where to File Your Claim: Where to file your small claim in Pennsylvania depends on where you live in the state. Philadelphia residents should file in Municipal Court, while other residents should file in their local District Court. In any case, the plaintiff (the person initiating the lawsuit) should file the suit where the defendant (the person being sued in small claims court) lives, or where the injury in question occurred.
Cases Handled: District Courts have limitations on real estate-related cases. However, all small claims courts handle issues of breach of contract, property damage, personal injury, and disputes over money and property. While most Pennsylvania residents are limited to cases under $8,000 in value, Philadelphia residents may file for amounts up to $10,000.
Who Can File: Business entities and individuals over the age of 18 are qualified to file small claims lawsuits in Pennsylvania. Children who have not yet reached legal age cannot file themselves; they must have a parent or guardian file the lawsuit on their behalf.
How to File: Filing procedures depend on the court in question. Go to the courthouse and ask for small claims forms. You will fill out a complaint that lays out the contact information for both parties, the facts of the lawsuit in question, and any supporting documentation such as receipts or contracts. If you are claiming more than $2,500 for property or personal damage in Philadelphia, you will need to file a verified statement of claim in addition to your complaint. After paying a small filing fee, you will be given a hearing date and told to send copies of the complaint to the party being sued via certified or registered mail, sheriff or process server.
Pennsylvania Small Claims Help: You may not be able to rely on employees of the court (like the court clerk) or law librarians for legal advice. These individuals may be restricted by state laws and/or court rules from giving legal advice to specific litigants. If you have questions about which forms to file or legal strategies to pursue, you may wish to hire an experienced Pennsylvania small claims attorney, contact the Pennsylvania Bar Association, or get in touch with a legal aid society like the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, which provides free or low-cost legal advice.
For more state-specific information and links to your state's small claims court resources, see Small Claims Court Information and Links.