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. A Notice of Appeal needs to be filed 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 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.
Small Claims Court Hearings in Warren County Magisterial District Court
Once you file your claim, the clerk will schedule a hearing (usually between 12 and 60 days from the date you filed your claim). Prior to the hearing, you should gather all documents and papers related to your 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. 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. 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. The plaintiff can present papers, bills, records, receipts, photographs, or video to the judge. The court will then give the Defendant a chance to ask questions to 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 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).
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Warren County
A Magisterial District Judge has jurisdiction over the following cases: preliminary hearings and preliminary arraignments in criminal cases, traffic offenses, municipal code violations, landlord/tenant cases and cases where the amount sought does not exceed $12,000.00.
Magisterial District Court in Warren County
Warren County has 3 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 37-2-01 is Raymond F. Zydonik . The 37-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:333 Hickory Street Warren, PA 16365
The phone number for 37-2-01 Magisterial District is: 814-723-2260. The fax number for 37-2-01 Magisterial District is: 814-723-0221.
The Magisterial District Judge for 37-3-01 is Laura S. Bauer . The 37-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1585 Market Street North Warren, PA 16365
The phone number for 37-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-723-6750. The fax number for 37-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-406-7069.
The Magisterial District Judge for 37-4-01 is Todd A. Woodin . The 37-4-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:37 Railroad Street Youngsville, PA 16371
The phone number for 37-4-01 Magisterial District is: 814-563-4682. The fax number for 37-4-01 Magisterial District is: 814-563-7519.
Filing a Case in Warren County Magisterial District Court
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. Also, you need an attorney to file your case in common pleas court. Magisterial District Court does not require an attorney.
Warren County Small Claims Court Case Types
Most cases filed in small claims court in Warren 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 used frequently and arise in many contexts including:
- home improvements between a contractor and a homeowner
- 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. A negligence case occurs when a party who is responsible to protect someone or something using due care, 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).
Small Claims Court in Warren County
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. A filing fee is required and depends on the amount of money in dispute. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will need to pay for the defendant(s) to be served. If the plaintiff wins, these costs can potentially be recovered from the defendant.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Warren County
Before you file a claim, you should send a letter to the defendant demanding payment (or whatever property you are seeking). This is usually the quickest and easiest way to resolve your dispute. Make sure you set a reasonable deadline in your letter for the defendant to comply by. If the demand letter does not resolve your case, you can 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). 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 dollar amount of damages
- 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, 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).
Where Should I File a Warren County Small Claims Court Case?
Each county in Pennsylvania (except for Philadelphia) is divided into districts. Each district has a Magisterial District Judge. The plaintiff should file the case in the Magisterial District where:
- the business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract involved was signed or performance was made
- the accident happened
- the property that the case is about is located
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 will be paid when the Complaint is filed with the court. 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).