Steps Before Filing a Case in Blair County Small Claims Court
Before you file a claim, you should send a letter to the defendant demanding payment (or whatever property you are seeking). This is usually the quickest and easiest way to resolve your dispute. In addition to the amount you are requesting, you should also set a reasonable deadline for the defendant to respond by. If the defendant does not agree to the terms in your letter (or fails to respond), you may 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 court clerk is unable to accept a Post Office Box for an address. 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:
- plaintiff’s name and address
- defendant’s name and address
- the dollar amount of damages
- a short statement concerning why you believe you are entitled to that amount of money (you should include dates and enough information so the person you are suing knows why you are suing them)
The court allows a plaintiff to file a complaint through the mail, but a plaintiff should file it in person so the court clerk can notify you if there are any problems with your complaint. The plaintiff can also pay the filing fee in person at the courthouse. In addition to the filing fee, you will also have to pay for the cost for personal service of your claim on the defendant (which varies depending on how it is served). The plaintiff can have the claim served on the defendant by certified mail or personally by a sheriff or constable. Personal service can be more expensive than certified mail but can be quicker than certified mail.
Blair County Small Claims Court
Small Claims courts are in Pennsylvania are generally called Magisterial District Courts. A party is not required to have an attorney for a small claims court case in a Magisterial District Court. The amount of the claim you are filing cannot exceed $12,000.00. The plaintiff is required to file a filing fee when filing the complaint. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will need to pay for the defendant(s) to be served. If the plaintiff prevails in the case, these costs can be recovered from the defendant.
Magisterial District Court in Blair County
Blair County has 6 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 24-1-02 is Benjamin F. Jones . The 24-1-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:2601 Fifth Avenue Altoona, PA 16602
The phone number for 24-1-02 Magisterial District is: 814-941-4550. The fax number for 24-1-02 Magisterial District is: 814-941-2323.
The Magisterial District Judge for 24-1-03 is Daniel C. DeAntonio . The 24-1-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:615 Fourth Street Altoona, PA 16602
The phone number for 24-1-03 Magisterial District is: 814-942-6421. The fax number for 24-1-03 Magisterial District is: 814-942-4770.
The Magisterial District Judge for 24-3-01 is Fred B. Miller . The 24-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:5628 East Pleasant Valley Boulevard Tyrone, PA 16686
The phone number for 24-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-684-4617. The fax number for 24-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-684-9634.
The Magisterial District Judge for 24-3-02 is Steven D. Jackson . The 24-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:5929 California Avenue Altoona, PA 16602
The phone number for 24-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-944-4371. The fax number for 24-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-944-2546.
The Magisterial District Judge for 24-3-03 is Paula M. Aigner . The 24-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:
The phone number for 24-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-693-3210. The fax number for 24-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-693-3212.
The Magisterial District Judge for 24-3-04 is Andrew L. Blattenberger . The 24-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:310 Airport Drive, Suite 9 Martinsburg, PA 16662
The phone number for 24-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-793-2495. The fax number for 24-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-793-2461.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Blair County
A Magisterial District Judge is a judge elected by the people of the district to handle certain types of cases including criminal (preliminary hearings and arraignments, traffic offenses, municipal code violations) and civil (landlord/tenant cases and cases where the amount in dispute does not exceed $12,000).
Blair County Magisterial District Court Hearing
After the claim is filed, the clerk will usually set a hearing between 12 and 60 days of the filing of the claim. Before the hearing, both parties should gather all documents and papers related to the case. Plan on having any witnesses that can support your position ready to be present in court on the date of the hearing. The hearing is open to the public and usually includes the following: judge, clerk, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses for either party. The courtroom is open to the public so anybody may be sitting in the gallery of the courtroom as well. The judge will explain the procedures at the beginning of the case (or at the beginning of the docket if there are multiple cases set for a hearing on the same day). 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 his or her testimony, the plaintiff should be sure to discuss and show to the court any documentary evidence (agreements, receipts) or other evidence (photographs or videos) to support the plaintiff’s case. The court will then give the Defendant a chance to ask questions to the plaintiff. Once the plaintiff is done, the witnesses that the plaintiff brought will also be given a chance to provide testimony. The defendant will be given the chance to ask questions of these witnesses as well. Once the plaintiff is done, the defendant will have a chance to present testimony (and the plaintiff can ask questions of the defendant). The defendant can also bring witnesses to provide testimony to the judge as well. The judge will usually make a decision at the hearing (or within five days).
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
Courts in Pennsylvania are divided into districts. Each district has an elected Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the Defendant lives (or where the business involved is located)
- the contract was signed or where the contract was supposed to be performed
- the accident occurred
- the property that the case is about is located
The plaintiff should contact the Magisterial District Court clerk to ensure it is the proper court for the case. You should also contact them to determine what the filing fee will be. You will pay the filing fee when you file the Complaint with the court. 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.
Types of Cases in Blair County Small Claims Court
Most cases filed in small claims court in Blair County are either considered a breach of contract case or a negligence case. A breach of contract action is where parties enter into an agreement that can be either oral or in writing. Contracts are used in many situations including:
- contractors and homeowner to make improvements
- insurance companies to provide insurance services
- credit services between a credit card company and a consumer
A breach of contract is when one party does not do what they promised under the agreement (pay money or provide services usually). Negligence is where a party that is supposed to act with reasonable care fails to do so and someone else is injured from that. Negligence actions generally include traffic accidents on the road and can include an actions for personal injuries (pain and suffering to a person) and property damage (generally to a car or other property).
Blair County Magisterial District Court Appeal
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the judge may set up a 12 month installment plan for the Defendant to make payments. The defendant has thirty days to file an appeal at the Common Pleas Court. If there is an appeal, a Notice of Appeal is filed with the prothonotary in 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 Notice of Appeal will prevent the plaintiff from taking any steps to collect money from the defendant until the appeal is decided. If the judge rules for the defendant, the plaintiff can appeal this decision as well.
Filing a Case in Blair County Magisterial District Court
Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed in a court called common pleas court. But, the Magisterial District Courts are less formal, less expensive, and faster than common pleas courts. Additionally, you need an attorney to file your case in the court of common pleas. An attorney is not required at the Magisterial District Court.