Filing a Case in Elk 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.
Types of Cases in Elk County Small Claims Court
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in Elk 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 frequently and arise in many contexts including:
- home improvements between a contractor and a homeowner
- 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 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).
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Elk County
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 defendant does not agree to your demands, then you may consider filing your case once the deadline has passed. Prior to filing your claim, you need to ascertain the name and physical address of the party you intend to sue. 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:
- your name and address
- name and address of the defendant
- 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)
While you can submit your claim through the mail, it is recommended that you file it in person so the clerk can let you know in person whether the form has been properly completed. While at the courthouse, the plaintiff can pay the filing fees. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will have to pay a fee to have the Defendant served. 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.
Elk 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. Also, the defendant has thirty days to file an appeal to 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. The plaintiff can also appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision if the judge ruled for the defendant at the hearing.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Elk County
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).
Elk County Magisterial Districts
Elk County has 2 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 59-3-02 is James L. Martin . The 59-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:409 G Center Street Johnsonburg, PA 15845
The phone number for 59-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-965-2663. The fax number for 59-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-965-3355.
The Magisterial District Judge for 59-3-03 is Mark S. Jacob . The 59-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:810 South Michael Street St. Marys, PA 15857
The phone number for 59-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-781-6995. The fax number for 59-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-834-6622.
Elk County Magisterial District 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. 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. At the hearing, there will usually be the judge, clerk, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses for both sides. 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 plaintiff will probably also be asked questions by the defendant. 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. 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 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).
Elk County Small Claims Court
Small Claims courts are in Pennsylvania are generally called Magisterial District Courts. A lawyer is not required. The amount of the claim you are filing cannot exceed $12,000.00. The plaintiff is also required to file a filing fee (which varies depending on how much money the plaintiff is asking for). 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 Should I File a Elk County Small Claims Court Case?
The Pennsylvania courts are divided by county and then into districts. Each district has an elected Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the Defendant resides or where the business is located
- the contract was signed or where the contract was supposed to be performed
- the accident 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. You should also contact them to determine what the filing fee will be. The filing fee can be paid by the plaintiff when the case is actually filed. The plaintiff needs to complete the form “Civil Complaint.” 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.