Small Claims Court in Armstrong County
Magisterial District Courts in Pennsylvania handle a wide variety of cases including what are commonly known as small claims court cases. In Magisterial District Court, a party is not required to have an attorney. The claim, or amount in controversy, cannot exceed $12,000.00. A filing fee is required and depends on the amount of money in dispute. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will need to pay for the defendant(s) to be served. If the plaintiff wins, these costs can potentially be recovered from the defendant.
Steps Before Filing a Case in Armstrong County Small Claims Court
You should send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment before filing your claim. This is usually the quickest and easiest way to resolve your dispute. Be sure to include a deadline that is reasonable in your demand letter. If the demand letter does not resolve your case, you can consider filing your case. Before filing your case, you need to learn the name and address of the party you are filing your case against. The Magisterial Court cannot accept a post office box. Additionally, if the party you are suing is not an individual, you will need to have the correct name of the corporation, partnership, limited liability entity, or whatever the corporate structure the party is utilizing. The Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau is a great resource for assisting with this task (Phone: 717-787-1057). The plaintiff should have the following information available before heading to the courthouse to complete the claim:
- name and address of the plaintiff
- defendant’s name and address
- the dollar amount of damages
- short statement of facts surrounding the circumstances of the case (including dates and locations)
While it is possible to file your claim through the mail, the plaintiff should file it in person at the courthouse with the clerk, so the clerk can let the plaintiff know if there are any problems with the claim. The plaintiff can also pay the filing fee in person at the courthouse. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will have to pay a fee to have the Defendant served. The plaintiff can have the claim served on the defendant by certified mail or personally by a sheriff or constable. Service by a sheriff or constable can cost more than by certified mail (but may be quicker because a person might not be home or refuse to accept a certified letter).
Armstrong County Magisterial District Court Small Claims Court Hearing
Once you file your claim, the clerk will schedule a hearing (usually between 12 and 60 days from the date you filed your claim). Prior to the hearing, you should gather all documents and papers related to your case. Both the plaintiff and defendant should also arrange to have any witnesses with knowledge about the case present in court on the date of the hearing. On the day of the hearing the courtroom will include the following: court clerk, judge, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses that either side intends to call. Courtrooms are open to the public so there may be additional persons in the gallery (who may include additional parties if there is more than one case set for a hearing that day). At the beginning of the case (or calendar), the Magisterial District Judge will usually briefly explain the procedures used at the hearing. Both parties will be sworn in to provide testimony. At the hearing, the judge will give the plaintiff an opportunity to testify about the circumstances surrounding the case. During this time, the plaintiff should present any evidence supporting the case including paperwork, receipts, records, photographs, or videos of the case. The defendant will have the opportunity to ask questions of the plaintiff. After the plaintiff is finished, the court will give the plaintiff a chance to present testimony from any other witnesses brought to testify. The defendant will have the chance to ask questions for these witnesses too. Once the plaintiff is done, the defendant will have a chance to present testimony (and the plaintiff can ask questions of the defendant). The judge will also give the defendant a chance to have any witnesses that he or she brought to present testimony as well. Once all the evidence has been presented, the judge will either make a decision at the hearing or within five days.
Types of cases handled in Small Claims Court in Armstrong County
Most cases filed in small claims court in Armstrong County are either considered a breach of contract case or a negligence case. A breach of contract case happens when two parties enter into a contract (oral or written) and one party fails to perform its obligations under the contract (either didn’t pay money or didn’t perform services or work). Contracts are common and used in a wide variety of situations including between:
- homeowners and contractors to make repairs
- insurance companies to provide insurance services
- credit card companies when providing credit to consumers
Breach of contract occurs when one party does not complete what they are required to do under the contract. Negligence is where a person or party has a responsibility to use reasonable care to protect others from damages and fails to do so. Negligence actions usually arise in an automobile accident or other times where someone sustains personal injuries or property damage.
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
Each county in Pennsylvania (except for Philadelphia) is divided into districts. Each district has an elected Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract for the case was signed or where work was to be performed
- the accident happened
- the property from the case is kept
The plaintiff should contact the Magisterial District Court where the plaintiff thinks the case should be filed and inquire if it is the correct court. The plaintiff should also inquire from the clerk what the filing fee will be. The filing fee can be paid by the plaintiff when the case is actually filed. The complaint form can be found under “Civil Complaint” here. If the plaintiff intends to place confidential information on the “Civil Complaint,” the plaintiff also needs to complete the “Confidential Information Form” which is located on the same page.
Magisterial District Court in Armstrong County
Armstrong County has 4 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 33-3-01 is J. Gary DeComo . The 33-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:206 Fifth Avenue, Suite A Ford City, PA 16226
The phone number for 33-3-01 Magisterial District is: 724-763-7866. The fax number for 33-3-01 Magisterial District is: 724-763-8821.
The Magisterial District Judge for 33-3-02 is James H. Owen . The 33-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:201 North Jefferson Street Kittanning, PA 16201
The phone number for 33-3-02 Magisterial District is: 724-543-2313. The fax number for 33-3-02 Magisterial District is: 724-545-9029.
The Magisterial District Judge for 33-3-03 is James A. Andring . The 33-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:241 Market Street Leechburg, PA 15656
The phone number for 33-3-03 Magisterial District is: 724-842-3571. The fax number for 33-3-03 Magisterial District is: 724-845-7610.
The Magisterial District Judge for 33-3-04 is Kevin L. McCausland . The 33-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:720 Main Street PO Box 393 Rural Valley, PA 16249
The phone number for 33-3-04 Magisterial District is: 724-783-6886. The fax number for 33-3-04 Magisterial District is: 724-783-2079.
What does a Magisterial District Judge Handle?
Magisterial District Judges are judges elected by the people of their district to handle criminal preliminary arraignments and preliminary hearings, summary criminal offenses, traffic offenses, municipal code violations, landlord / tenant actions, and civil actions where the damages do not exceed $12,000 (commonly known as small claims court).
Should I File in Armstrong County Magisterial District Court
A claim of $12,000 or less is also able to be filed in Common Pleas Court. But, the Magisterial District Courts are less formal, less expensive, and faster than common pleas courts. Also, you need an attorney to file your case in common pleas court. In Magisterial District Court, an attorney is not required.
After the Armstrong County Magisterial District Court Hearing
If the plaintiff wins at the hearing, the judge may set up a twelve month installment plan for payments from the Defendant. Also, the defendant has thirty days to file an appeal to the Common Pleas Court. A Notice of Appeal needs to be filed with the prothonotary at the county courthouse. A copy of the Notice of Appeal will be served on the judge (who made the decision) and the plaintiff in the case. The plaintiff cannot take any steps to collect money from the Defendant based on the Magisterial District Court’s judgment until the appeal has been decided. If the judge rules for the defendant, the plaintiff can appeal this decision as well.