Dauphin County Small Claims Court, Pennsylvania


Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?

Courts in Pennsylvania are divided into districts. Each district has an elected Magisterial District Judge. The plaintiff should file the case 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 damage or accident involved happened
  • the goods involved are permanently kept

Once you locate what the appropriate court should be, you should contact the court to determine whether it is the appropriate place to file your claim. The plaintiff should also inquire from the clerk what the filing fee will be. You will pay the filing fee when you file the Complaint with the court. The plaintiff needs to complete the form “Civil Complaint.” 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).

Steps Before Filing a Case in Dauphin County Small Claims 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 defendant does not agree to the terms in your letter (or fails to respond), you may consider filing your case. It is also important to know the name and address of the party you wish to file your action against. The court is unable to accept a P.O. Box. It needs a physical address. If the party the plaintiff is suing is not an individual, the plaintiff needs to ascertain what corporate form the defendant is using as well as the name of that corporate entity. 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:

  • your name and address
  • name and address of the person you want to sue
  • the amount of money you are filing your claim for (including all expenses)
  • 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. 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. A Defendant can be served by certified mail or in person by a deputy sheriff or constable. Service by certified mail is cheaper but might not be as quick as personal service by a sheriff or constable.

Small Claims Court Hearings in Dauphin County Magisterial District Court

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. Each party should gather all documents and papers related to the case before the hearing. 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). At the beginning of the case (or calendar), the Magisterial District Judge will usually briefly explain the procedures used at the hearing. Plaintiff and Defendant will both be sworn in at the beginning to present testimony to the court. The court will give the plaintiff a chance to present its case through testimony. The plaintiff can present papers, bills, records, receipts, photographs, or video to the judge. 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 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 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).

After the Dauphin County Magisterial District Court Hearing

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 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 prevents the plaintiff from collecting any money 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.

Filing a Case in Dauphin County Magisterial District Court

Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed in a court called common pleas court. But, the Common Pleas Court is more formal and expensive than Magisterial District Court. 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.

Dauphin County Small Claims Court Case Types

Most cases filed in small claims court in Dauphin 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 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 and credit card holders to provide credit services

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 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).

Small Claims Court in Dauphin County

Dauphin County Small Claims Court

Dauphin County Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court cases are handled in Pennsylvania at the Magisterial District Court. 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. There may also be an additional cost for serving the Defendant. If the plaintiff wins, these costs can potentially be recovered from the defendant.

Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Dauphin County

A Magisterial District Judge has jurisdiction over the following cases: preliminary hearings and preliminary arraignments in criminal cases, traffic offenses, municipal code violations, landlord/tenant cases and cases where the amount sought does not exceed $12,000.00.

Magisterial District Court in Dauphin County

Dauphin County has 15 Magisterial Districts which are:

12-1-01

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-1-01 is James A. Lenker . The 12-1-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

2125 Paxton Church Road
Harrisburg, PA 17110

The phone number for 12-1-01 Magisterial District is: 717-545-4143. The fax number for 12-1-01 Magisterial District is: 717-657-2107.

12-1-02

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-1-02 is Barbara Pianka . The 12-1-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

2967-A North Seventh Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110

The phone number for 12-1-02 Magisterial District is: 717-238-3388. The fax number for 12-1-02 Magisterial District is: 717-238-3004.

12-1-04

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-1-04 is David F. O’Leary . The 12-1-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

1520 Walnut Street
Harrisburg, PA 17103

The phone number for 12-1-04 Magisterial District is: 717-233-1220. The fax number for 12-1-04 Magisterial District is: 717-233-1598.

12-1-05

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-1-05 is Hanif L. Johnson . The 12-1-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

538 South 29th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104

The phone number for 12-1-05 Magisterial District is: 717-231-3500. The fax number for 12-1-05 Magisterial District is: 717-231-3504.

12-1-06

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-1-06 is Joseph S. Lindsey . The 12-1-06 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

5925 Locust Lane
Harrisburg, PA 17109

The phone number for 12-1-06 Magisterial District is: 717-671-8640. The fax number for 12-1-06 Magisterial District is: 717-671-1899.

12-2-01

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-2-01 is Michael John Smith . The 12-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

1281 South 28th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17111

The phone number for 12-2-01 Magisterial District is: 717-558-1160. The fax number for 12-2-01 Magisterial District is: 717-558-1056.

12-2-02

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-2-02 is Kenneth A. Lenker . The 12-2-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

102 Agnes Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104

The phone number for 12-2-02 Magisterial District is: 717-939-6996. The fax number for 12-2-02 Magisterial District is: 717-939-4868.

12-2-03

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-2-03 is David H. Judy . The 12-2-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

50 Canal Street
Royalton, PA 17057

The phone number for 12-2-03 Magisterial District is: 717-944-4463. The fax number for 12-2-03 Magisterial District is: 717-948-1974.

12-2-04

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-2-04 is Sonya M. McKnight . The 12-2-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

1805 North Cameron Street
Harrisburg, PA 17103

The phone number for 12-2-04 Magisterial District is: 717-233-3599. The fax number for 12-2-04 Magisterial District is: 717-233-3547.

12-2-05

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-2-05 is Paul T. Zozos . The 12-2-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

1300 Rolleston Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104

The phone number for 12-2-05 Magisterial District is: 717-234-0949. The fax number for 12-2-05 Magisterial District is: 717-234-0953.

12-3-01

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-3-01 is Rebecca Jo Margerum . The 12-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

RR1, Manors Road
PO Box 68
Elizabethville, PA 17023

The phone number for 12-3-01 Magisterial District is: 717-362-3396. The fax number for 12-3-01 Magisterial District is: 717-362-4507.

12-3-02

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-3-02 is Gregory D. Johnson . The 12-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

1025 Peters Mountain Road
Dauphin, PA 17018

The phone number for 12-3-02 Magisterial District is: 717-921-8007. The fax number for 12-3-02 Magisterial District is: 717-921-3585.

12-3-03

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-3-03 is William C. Wenner . The 12-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

5925 Stevenson Avenue
1st Floor, Suite B
Harrisburg, PA 17112

The phone number for 12-3-03 Magisterial District is: 717-545-0261. The fax number for 12-3-03 Magisterial District is: 717-545-8015.

12-3-04

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-3-04 is Dominic A. Pelino . The 12-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

576 East Main Street
Hummelstown, PA 17036

The phone number for 12-3-04 Magisterial District is: 717-583-1912. The fax number for 12-3-04 Magisterial District is: 717-583-1915.

12-3-05

The Magisterial District Judge for 12-3-05 is Lowell A. Witmer . The 12-3-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:

8010 Bretz Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17112

The phone number for 12-3-05 Magisterial District is: 717-671-8720. The fax number for 12-3-05 Magisterial District is: 717-671-1282.