Steps Before Filing a Case in Franklin County Small Claims Court
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 the terms in your letter (or fails to respond), you may 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. 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). Before heading down to the courthouse to fill out your claim, you should have the following information:
- name and address of the plaintiff
- defendant’s name and address
- the amount of money you are filing your claim for (including all expenses)
- 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).
Filing a Case in Franklin County Magisterial District Court
A claim of $12,000 or less is also able to be filed in 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.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Franklin 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).
Franklin County Small Claims Court Case Types
Most cases filed in small claims court in Franklin 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:
- contractors and homeowner to make improvements
- 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. Negligence is where a person or party has a responsibility to use reasonable care to protect others from damages and fails to do so. These actions usually include traffic accidents or other types of situations resulting in personal injury or property damage.
Franklin 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. Prior to the hearing, you should gather all documents and papers related to your 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. On the day of the hearing the courtroom will include the following: court clerk, judge, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses that either side intends to call. The courtroom is open to the public so anybody may be sitting in the gallery of the courtroom as well. At the beginning of the hearing, the Magisterial District Judge will explain the procedures. 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 plaintiff will probably also be asked questions by the defendant. 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 be given the chance to ask questions of these witnesses as well. After the plaintiff is finished presenting his or her case, the court will allow the defendant a chance to present a defense (including testimony from the defendant). The defendant will also be allowed to present testimony from any witnesses that he or she brought. After all the evidence has been presented, the judge will make a decision (either at the hearing or within five days).
Franklin County Small Claims Court
Magisterial District Courts in Pennsylvania handle a wide variety of cases including what are commonly known as small claims court cases. A lawyer is not required. A plaintiff cannot file a claim for more than $12,000. The plaintiff is also required to file a filing fee (which varies depending on how much money the plaintiff is asking for). There may also be an additional cost for serving the Defendant. If the plaintiff prevails in the case, these costs can be recovered from the defendant.
After the Judge Makes a Decision
If the plaintiff wins at the hearing, the judge may set up a twelve month installment plan for payments from the Defendant. 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. A copy of the Notice of Appeal will be served on the judge (who made the decision) and the plaintiff in the case. The plaintiff cannot take any steps to collect money from the Defendant based on the Magisterial District Court’s judgment until the appeal has been decided. The plaintiff can also appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision if the judge ruled for the defendant at the hearing.
Magisterial District Court in Franklin County
Franklin County has 7 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-2-01 is Glenn K. Manns . The 39-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:218 North Second Street Chambersburg, PA 17201
The phone number for 39-2-01 Magisterial District is: 717-263-5808. The fax number for 39-2-01 Magisterial District is: 717-263-1923.
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-3-02 is Annie Ramona Gomez Shockey . The 39-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:
The phone number for 39-3-02 Magisterial District is: 717-762-9411. The fax number for 39-3-02 Magisterial District is: 717-762-9297.
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-3-03 is David L. Plum . The 39-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:9724 Cumberland Highway PO Box 135 Pleasant Hall, PA 17246
The phone number for 39-3-03 Magisterial District is: 717-532-7672. The fax number for 39-3-03 Magisterial District is: 717-532-2506.
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-3-04 is Todd R. Williams . The 39-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1157 Garver Lane PO Box 460 Scotland, PA 17254
The phone number for 39-3-04 Magisterial District is: 717-263-7949. The fax number for 39-3-04 Magisterial District is: 717-261-1849.
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-3-05 is Duane K. Cunningham . The 39-3-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:401 South Washington Street Greencastle, PA 17225
The phone number for 39-3-05 Magisterial District is: 717-597-8581. The fax number for 39-3-05 Magisterial District is: 717-597-8123.
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-3-06 is Jody C. Eyer . The 39-3-06 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:20 Veterans Way Mercersburg, PA 17236
The phone number for 39-3-06 Magisterial District is: 717-328-3521. The fax number for 39-3-06 Magisterial District is: 717-328-3527.
The Magisterial District Judge for 39-3-07 is Kelly L. Rock . The 39-3-07 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:2038B Lincoln Way East Chambersburg, PA 17201
The phone number for 39-3-07 Magisterial District is: 717-263-5820. The fax number for 39-3-07 Magisterial District is: 717-263-4116.
Where Can a Small Claims Court Case Be Filed?
Each county in Pennsylvania (except for Philadelphia) is divided into districts. Each district has an elected Magisterial District Judge. The plaintiff should file the case in the Magisterial District where:
- the Defendant lives (or where the business involved is located)
- the contract involved was signed or performance was made
- the accident happened
- the property from the case is 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 can also inquire what the filing fee for the case will be. The filing fee can be paid by the plaintiff when the case is actually filed. The form “Civil Complaint” need to be completed by the plaintiff. 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.