Small Claims Court Hearings in Lebanon County Magisterial District Court
After the claim is filed, the clerk will usually set a hearing between 12 and 60 days of the filing of the claim. Before the hearing, both parties should gather all documents and papers related to the case. 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. 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). Plaintiff and Defendant will both be sworn in at the beginning to present testimony to the court. 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 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 also be granted the opportunity 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 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).
Should I File in Lebanon 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.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Lebanon County
Prior to filing a claim, it is recommended that you send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment. This is usually the quickest and easiest way to resolve your dispute. 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 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. 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. The Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau is a great resource for assisting with this task (Phone: 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 the claim
- 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 it is possible to file your claim through the mail, the plaintiff should file it in person at the courthouse with the clerk, so the clerk can let the plaintiff know if there are any problems with the claim. Additionally, you can pay the filing costs in person (which can be recovered if you prevail in your lawsuit). 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.
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. The defendant has thirty days to appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision to Common Pleas Court. If the defendant wishes to appeal, he or she must file a Notice of Appeal with the prothonotary at 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 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.
Lebanon County Small Claims Court
Small Claims courts are in Pennsylvania are generally called Magisterial District Courts. In Magisterial District Court, a party is not required to have an attorney. A plaintiff cannot file a claim for more than $12,000. The plaintiff is required to file a filing fee when filing the complaint. 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.
Types of Cases in Lebanon County Small Claims Court
A Magisterial District Judge generally hears negligence and breach of contract actions with respect to civil cases. A breach of contract case happens when two parties enter into a contract (oral or written) and one party fails to perform its obligations under the contract (either didn’t pay money or didn’t perform services or work). Contracts are common and used in a wide variety of situations including between:
- homeowners and contractors to make repairs
- insurance services between an insurance company and a consumer
- 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 party that is supposed to act with reasonable care fails to do so and someone else is injured from that. 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).
Magisterial District Court in Lebanon County
Lebanon County has 6 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 52-1-01 is Maria M. Dissinger . The 52-1-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:502 State Drive Lebanon, PA 17042
The phone number for 52-1-01 Magisterial District is: 717-279-0300. The fax number for 52-1-01 Magisterial District is: 717-279-0617.
The Magisterial District Judge for 52-2-01 is Thomas M. Capello . The 52-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:502 State Drive Lebanon, PA 17042
The phone number for 52-2-01 Magisterial District is: 717-279-0400. The fax number for 52-2-01 Magisterial District is: 717-279-8514.
The Magisterial District Judge for 52-3-01 is Anthony J. Verna . The 52-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:728 East Walnut Street Lebanon, PA 17042
The phone number for 52-3-01 Magisterial District is: 717-272-3084. The fax number for 52-3-01 Magisterial District is: 717-228-3647.
The Magisterial District Judge for 52-3-03 is Kim R. Wolfe . The 52-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1720 State Route 72 North Lebanon, PA 17046
The phone number for 52-3-03 Magisterial District is: 717-273-0024. The fax number for 52-3-03 Magisterial District is: 717-273-0027.
The Magisterial District Judge for 52-3-04 is John W. Ditzler . The 52-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:138 West Walnut Street PO Box 2012 Cleona, PA 17042
The phone number for 52-3-04 Magisterial District is: 717-273-0885. The fax number for 52-3-04 Magisterial District is: 717-228-3746.
The Magisterial District Judge for 52-3-05 is Carl R. Garver . The 52-3-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:325 South Railroad Street Palmyra, PA 17078
The phone number for 52-3-05 Magisterial District is: 717-838-8151. The fax number for 52-3-05 Magisterial District is: 717-832-0128.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Lebanon 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).
Where Can a Small Claims Court Case Be Filed?
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 lives (or where the business involved is located)
- the contract for the case was signed or where work was to be performed
- the damage or accident involved happened
- the property from the case is 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 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 plaintiff needs to complete the form “Civil Complaint.” 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.