Filing a Case in Jefferson County Magisterial District Court
Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed at the Common Pleas Court. But, the Magisterial District Courts are less formal, less expensive, and faster than common pleas courts. 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.
Small Claims Court Hearings in Jefferson 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. Before the hearing, both parties should gather all documents and papers related to the case. Both the plaintiff and defendant should also arrange to have any witnesses with knowledge about the case 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. 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 case (or calendar), the Magisterial District Judge will usually briefly explain the procedures used at the hearing. 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 this time, the plaintiff should present any evidence supporting the case including paperwork, receipts, records, photographs, or videos of the case. The plaintiff will probably also be asked questions by the defendant. Once the plaintiff is done, the witnesses that the plaintiff brought will also be given a chance to provide testimony. 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 judge will also give the defendant a chance to have any witnesses that he or she brought to present testimony as well. Once all the evidence has been presented, the judge will either make a decision at the hearing or within five days.
Jefferson County Small Claims Court
Small Claims courts are in Pennsylvania are generally called Magisterial District Courts. A lawyer is not required. 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 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.
Jefferson County Small Claims Court Case Types
Most cases filed in small claims court in Jefferson 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 when providing credit to consumers
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 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).
What is a Magisterial District Judge?
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).
Magisterial District Court in Jefferson County
Jefferson County has 3 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 54-3-01 is Jacqueline J. Mizerock . The 54-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:222 North Findley Street, Suite 110 Punxsutawney, PA 15767
The phone number for 54-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-938-9381. The fax number for 54-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-938-2289.
The Magisterial District Judge for 54-3-02 is David B. Inzana . The 54-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:453 East Main Street Reynoldsville, PA 15851
The phone number for 54-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-653-9611. The fax number for 54-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-653-7858.
The Magisterial District Judge for 54-3-03 is Gregory M. Bazylak . The 54-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:Jefferson County Courthouse 182 Main Street Brookville, PA 15825
The phone number for 54-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-849-3673. The fax number for 54-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-849-3690.
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
Courts in Pennsylvania are divided into districts. Each district has a Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the Defendant resides or where the business is located
- the contract for the case was signed or where work was to be performed
- the accident occurred
- the property from the case is kept
The plaintiff should contact the Magisterial District Court clerk to ensure it is the proper court for the case. The plaintiff can also inquire what the filing fee for the case 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. 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.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Jefferson County
Before you file a claim, you should send a letter to the defendant demanding payment (or whatever property you are seeking). 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 demand letter does not resolve your case, you can 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 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. 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 the claim
- 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)
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. The plaintiff can have the claim served on the defendant by certified mail or personally 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).
After the Judge Makes a Decision
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. 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. If the judge rules for the defendant, the plaintiff can appeal this decision as well.