Columbia County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court cases are handled in Pennsylvania at the Magisterial District Court. A lawyer is not required. The amount of the claim you are filing cannot exceed $12,000.00. A filing fee is required and depends on the amount of money in dispute. There is also an additional cost for serving the defendant with the claim. If the plaintiff wins, these costs can potentially be recovered from the defendant.
Where Can a Small Claims Court Case Be Filed?
The Pennsylvania courts are divided by county and then 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 goods involved are permanently 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 will be paid when the Complaint is filed with the court. The complaint form can be found under “Civil Complaint” here. If the plaintiff plans to include information that could be deemed confidential, the plaintiff needs to complete the Confidential Information Form (which is found on the same page).
Magisterial District Court in Columbia County
Columbia County has 4 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 26-2-01 is Russell L. Lawton . The 26-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:700 Sawmill Road, Suite 102 Bloomsburg, PA 17815
The phone number for 26-2-01 Magisterial District is: 570-784-1868. The fax number for 26-2-01 Magisterial District is: 570-784-9061.
The Magisterial District Judge for 26-3-01 is Douglas D. Brewer . The 26-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:100 West Third Street PO Box 180 Millville, PA 17846
The phone number for 26-3-01 Magisterial District is: 570-458-5501. The fax number for 26-3-01 Magisterial District is: 570-458-0252.
The Magisterial District Judge for 26-3-02 is Richard W. Knecht . The 26-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:339 West Front Street Berwick, PA 18603
The phone number for 26-3-02 Magisterial District is: 570-759-0359. The fax number for 26-3-02 Magisterial District is: 570-759-9230.
The Magisterial District Judge for 26-3-03 is Craig W. Long . The 26-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:400 Fisher Avenue Catawissa, PA 17820
The phone number for 26-3-03 Magisterial District is: 570-356-2309. The fax number for 26-3-03 Magisterial District is: 570-356-2019.
Steps Before Filing a Case in Columbia 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. 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 going to the Magisterial District Court to file your claim, you should know the following information:
- name and address of the plaintiff
- defendant’s name and address
- the dollar amount of damages
- brief statement about why the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of the claim (you should include specifics like locations and dates to assist the court and the defendant from learning what the case is about)
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, the plaintiff will have to pay a fee to have the Defendant served. 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).
Columbia County Magisterial District Court Small Claims Court Hearing
Once the claim has been filed, the clerk will set a hearing between 12 and 60 days from the date of the filing of the claim. Before the hearing, both parties should gather all documents and papers related to the case. You should also arrange to have any witnesses that may support your position present on the date of the hearing so they can testify. 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. The court will give the plaintiff a chance to present its case through testimony. 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. 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 also be granted the opportunity to ask questions of these witnesses as well. After the plaintiff is done presenting his or her case, the judge will give the defendant an opportunity to testify (and the plaintiff will be given the chance to ask questions as well). The defendant can also bring witnesses to provide testimony to the judge as well. After all the evidence has been presented, the judge will make a decision (either at the hearing or within five days).
Columbia County Magisterial District Court Appeal
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 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. The Notice of Appeal (once filed) will be served on the Magisterial District Judge (who made the decision) and 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. If the plaintiff does not prevail at the initial hearing, the plaintiff has the option of appealing the Magisterial District Judge’s decision as well.
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).
Columbia County Small Claims Court Case Types
A Magisterial District Judge generally hears negligence and breach of contract actions with respect to civil cases. 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 services between an insurance company and a consumer
- credit services between a credit card company and a consumer
Breach of contract is where a party to a contract either doesn’t pay or doesn’t perform what they are supposed to under the contract. 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).
Should I File in Columbia County Magisterial District Court
A claim of $12,000 or less is also able to be filed in Common Pleas Court. However, the Magisterial District Court is not as formal and is cheaper than a case in common pleas court. The Common Pleas Court requires an attorney to handle your case. An attorney is not required at the Magisterial District Court.