Types of cases handled in Small Claims Court in Clarion County
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in Clarion County: negligence and contract actions. 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:
- home improvements between a contractor and a homeowner
- insurance companies and their insureds to provide 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. A negligence case occurs when a party who is responsible to protect someone or something using due care, fails to do so. 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).
Prior to Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Clarion County Magisterial District Court
You should send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment before filing your claim. A demand letter can be the cheapest and quickest way of resolving your situation. 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. Prior to filing your claim, you need to ascertain the name and physical address of the party you intend to sue. The Magisterial Court cannot accept a post office box. If the party you intend on suing is not an individual, it is important to learn what corporate form the business is using. For help determining the proper name, you should contact Pennsylvania’s Corporation Bureau online or by phone at 717-787-1057. Before heading down to the courthouse to fill out your claim, you should have the following information:
- your name and address
- name and address of the person you want to sue
- the amount of the claim
- 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. While at the courthouse, the plaintiff can pay the filing fees. The plaintiff will also have to pay for a cost to serve the defendant. Your complaint can be served on the defendant either by certified mail or 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).
After the Clarion County Magisterial District Court Hearing
If the plaintiff prevails, the defendant may arrange to make payments on a twelve month installment plan (which will be set by the judge). The defendant has thirty days to appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision to Common Pleas Court. If there is an appeal, a Notice of Appeal is filed with the prothonotary in the county courthouse. The Notice of Appeal will be served on the Magisterial District Judge who made the decision along with the plaintiff. The Notice of Appeal will prevent the plaintiff from taking any steps to collect money from the defendant until the appeal is decided. The plaintiff can also appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision if the judge ruled for the defendant at the hearing.
What is a Magisterial District Judge?
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).
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
Courts in Pennsylvania are divided into districts. Each district has a 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 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 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. Note: if you need to include confidential information in your complaint, it is important to use the Confidential Information Form found on the same page.
Small Claims Court Hearings in Clarion County Magisterial District Court
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. 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. Because the hearing is open to the public, there may be members of the public watching court from the gallery (along with maybe other parties waiting for their cases to be called). 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). The plaintiff and defendant will both be sworn in to present testimony to the judge. During the hearing, the plaintiff will be given an opportunity to testify about what happened that caused the plaintiff to file the claim. 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 defendant will have the opportunity to ask questions of the plaintiff. Once the plaintiff is finished, any witnesses the plaintiff brought will be sworn and have the chance to testify as well. 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. The judge will usually make a decision at the hearing (or within five days).
Clarion 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. A plaintiff cannot file a claim for more than $12,000. 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 prevails in the case, these costs can be recovered from the defendant.
Magisterial District Court in Clarion County
Clarion County has 4 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 18-3-01 is Duane L. Quinn . The 18-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:22 North Sixth Avenue, Suite B Clarion, PA 16214
The phone number for 18-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-226-9355. The fax number for 18-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-226-9827.
The Magisterial District Judge for 18-3-02 is Timothy P. Schill . The 18-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:309 Amsler Avenue, Suite 1 Shippenville, PA 16254
The phone number for 18-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-226-5170. The fax number for 18-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-226-9464.
The Magisterial District Judge for 18-3-03 is Amy Long Turk . The 18-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:White Memorial Building Mendenhall Avenue PO Box 519 Knox, PA 16232
The phone number for 18-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-797-5934. The fax number for 18-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-797-2197.
The Magisterial District Judge for 18-3-04 is Jeffrey C. Miller . The 18-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:237 Broad Street New Bethlehem, PA 16242
The phone number for 18-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-275-2322. The fax number for 18-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-275-2843.
Should I File in Clarion County Magisterial District Court
Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed at the 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.