Types of cases handled in Small Claims Court in Huntingdon County
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in Huntingdon County: negligence and contract actions. A contract is where two parties enter into an agreement (either written or oral). Contracts are used frequently and arise in many contexts including:
- homeowners and contractors to make repairs
- insurance companies and their insureds to provide services
- 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 usually arise in an automobile accident or other times where someone sustains personal injuries or property damage.
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
Each county in Pennsylvania (except for Philadelphia) is divided into districts. Each district has an elected Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract was signed or where the contract was supposed to be performed
- the damage or accident involved happened
- the property that the case is about is located
The plaintiff should contact the Magisterial District Court clerk to ensure it is the proper court for the case. 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 complaint form can be found under “Civil Complaint” here. 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.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Huntingdon 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).
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Huntingdon County
Prior to filing a claim, it is recommended that you send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment. A demand letter can be the cheapest and quickest way of resolving your situation. In addition to the amount you are requesting, you should also set a reasonable deadline for the defendant to respond by. 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. 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. The plaintiff should have the following information available before heading to the courthouse to complete the claim:
- plaintiff’s name and address
- defendant’s name and address
- the amount of the claim
- short statement of facts surrounding the circumstances of the case (including dates and locations)
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. Additionally, you can pay the filing costs in person (which can be recovered if you prevail in your lawsuit). In addition to the filing fee, you will also have to pay for the cost for personal service of your claim on the defendant (which varies depending on how it is served). A Defendant can be served by certified mail or in person by a deputy 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).
Huntingdon County Magisterial Districts
Huntingdon County has 3 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 20-3-01 is Douglas L. Gummo . The 20-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:Porter Township Building 7561 Bridge Street, Suite 1 PO Box 361 Alexandria, PA 16611
The phone number for 20-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-669-4550. The fax number for 20-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-669-9148.
The Magisterial District Judge for 20-3-02 is Rufus S. Brenneman . The 20-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:Bailey Building 233 Penn Street Huntingdon, PA 16652
The phone number for 20-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-643-2270. The fax number for 20-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-643-5175.
The Magisterial District Judge for 20-3-04 is Lisa M. Covert . The 20-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:550 Cromwell Street PO Box 352 Orbisonia, PA 17243
The phone number for 20-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-447-5561. The fax number for 20-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-447-0064.
Advantages of Filing in Magisterial District Court in Huntingdon County
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. Also, you need an attorney to file your case in common pleas court. Magisterial District Court does not require an attorney.
Huntingdon County Magisterial District Court Appeal
If the plaintiff wins at the hearing, the judge may set up a twelve month installment plan for payments from the Defendant. The defendant has thirty days to file an appeal at the Common Pleas Court. A Notice of Appeal needs to be filed with the prothonotary at 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. 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.
Huntingdon 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. The hearing is open to the public and usually includes the following: judge, clerk, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses for either party. Courtrooms are open to the public so there may be additional persons in the gallery (who may include additional parties if there is more than one case set for a hearing that day). At the beginning of the hearing, the Magisterial District Judge will explain the procedures. 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. 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. 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).
Huntingdon County Small Claims Court
Small Claims courts are in Pennsylvania are generally called Magisterial District Courts. 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 is also an additional cost for serving the defendant with the claim. If the plaintiff prevails in the case, these costs can be recovered from the defendant.