Northumberland County Small Claims Court Case Types
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in Northumberland County: negligence and contract actions. 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:
- contractors and homeowner to make improvements
- insurance companies to provide insurance services
- credit card companies and credit card holders to provide credit services
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. These actions usually include traffic accidents or other types of situations resulting in personal injury or property damage.
After the Northumberland County Magisterial District Court Hearing
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. The defendant has thirty days to appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision to 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 prevents the plaintiff from collecting any money 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.
Northumberland 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. Before the hearing, both parties should gather all documents and papers related to the 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. 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. The plaintiff and defendant will both be sworn in to present testimony to the judge. The court will give the plaintiff a chance to present its case through testimony. The plaintiff can present papers, bills, records, receipts, photographs, or video to the judge. 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. Once the plaintiff is done, the defendant will have a chance to present testimony (and the plaintiff can ask questions of the defendant). The defendant will also be allowed to present testimony from any witnesses that he or she brought. The judge will usually make a decision at the hearing (or within five days).
Steps Before Filing a Case in Northumberland County Small Claims Court
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. 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 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. 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
- name and address of the defendant
- 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. The plaintiff can also pay the filing fee in person at the courthouse. The plaintiff will also have to pay for a cost to serve the defendant. 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).
Advantages of Filing in Magisterial District Court in Northumberland County
Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed in a court called 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. Magisterial District Court does not require an attorney.
Magisterial District Court in Northumberland County
Northumberland County has 4 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 08-2-01 is William C. Cole . The 08-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:150 South Market Street Mt. Carmel, PA 17851
The phone number for 08-2-01 Magisterial District is: 570-339-2140. The fax number for 08-2-01 Magisterial District is: 570-339-4433.
The Magisterial District Judge for 08-3-02 is Michael I. Diehl . The 08-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:
The phone number for 08-3-02 Magisterial District is: 570-742-7446. The fax number for 08-3-02 Magisterial District is: 570-742-2144.
The Magisterial District Judge for 08-3-03 is John Gembic . The 08-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:2 East Arch Street Shamokin, PA 17872
The phone number for 08-3-03 Magisterial District is: 570-644-0736. The fax number for 08-3-03 Magisterial District is: 570-644-3958.
The Magisterial District Judge for 08-3-04 is Michael P. Toomey . The 08-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:Northumberland County Administration Building 399 South Fifth Street Sunbury, PA 17801
The phone number for 08-3-04 Magisterial District is: 570-988-4485. The fax number for 08-3-04 Magisterial District is: 570-988-3954.
What does a Magisterial District Judge Handle?
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 a 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 was signed or where the contract was supposed to be performed
- the accident occurred
- 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 plaintiff needs to complete the form “Civil Complaint.” If the plaintiff plans to include information that could be deemed confidential, the plaintiff needs to complete the Confidential Information Form (which is found on the same page).
Small Claims Court in Northumberland County
Small Claims Court cases are handled in Pennsylvania at the Magisterial District Court. A lawyer is not required. A plaintiff cannot file a claim for more than $12,000. A filing fee is required and depends on the amount of money in dispute. There may also be an additional cost for serving the Defendant. If the plaintiff wins, these costs can potentially be recovered from the defendant.