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 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 goods involved are permanently 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. You should also contact them to determine what the filing fee will be. You will pay the filing fee when you file the Complaint with the court. The form “Civil Complaint” need to be completed by the plaintiff. 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).
Advantages of Filing in Magisterial District Court in Erie 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. In Magisterial District Court, an attorney is not required.
Erie County Small Claims Court Case Types
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in Erie County: negligence and contract actions. A breach of contract action is where parties enter into an agreement that can be either oral or in writing. Contracts are used in many situations 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
A breach of contract is when one party does not do what they promised under the agreement (pay money or provide services usually). 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.
Erie County Magisterial Districts
Erie County has 13 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-1-01 is Suzanne C. Mack . The 06-1-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:824 East Sixth Street Erie, PA 16507
The phone number for 06-1-01 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6524. The fax number for 06-1-01 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6515.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-1-02 is Paul G. Urbaniak . The 06-1-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1021 Parade Street Erie, PA 16503
The phone number for 06-1-02 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6530. The fax number for 06-1-02 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6512.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-1-03 is Thomas Carney . The 06-1-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:809 West 12th Street Erie, PA 16501
The phone number for 06-1-03 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6528. The fax number for 06-1-03 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6529.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-1-04 is Paul A. Bizzarro . The 06-1-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:460 East 26th Street Erie, PA 16504
The phone number for 06-1-04 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6522. The fax number for 06-1-04 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6523.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-1-05 is Timothy S. Beveridge . The 06-1-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1571 West 38th Street Erie, PA 16508
The phone number for 06-1-05 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6520. The fax number for 06-1-05 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6514.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-2-02 is Laurie A. Weiss Mikielski . The 06-2-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:3608 West 26th Street, Suite 104 Erie, PA 16506
The phone number for 06-2-02 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6518. The fax number for 06-2-02 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6519.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-2-04 is Denise M. Buell . The 06-2-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:732 Worth Street Corry, PA 16407
The phone number for 06-2-04 Magisterial District is: 814-665-7285. The fax number for 06-2-04 Magisterial District is: 814-664-3919.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-3-01 is Lisa R. Ferrick . The 06-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:3921 Buffalo Road Erie, PA 16510
The phone number for 06-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6516. The fax number for 06-3-01 Magisterial District is: 814-451-7499.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-3-02 is Scott B. Hammer . The 06-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:10300 West Main Road PO Box 8 North East, PA 16428
The phone number for 06-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-725-9693. The fax number for 06-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-725-9695.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-3-03 is Susan D. Strohmeyer . The 06-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:9333 Tate Road, Suite 109 Erie, PA 16509
The phone number for 06-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6511. The fax number for 06-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-451-7417.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-3-05 is Brian M. McGowan . The 06-3-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1230 Townhall Road West, Suite 300 Erie, PA 16509
The phone number for 06-3-05 Magisterial District is: 814-451-6532. The fax number for 06-3-05 Magisterial District is: 814-866-1021.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-3-06 is Denise M. Stuck-Lewis . The 06-3-06 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:8952 West Main Street PO Box 53 McKean, PA 16426
The phone number for 06-3-06 Magisterial District is: 814-476-7734. The fax number for 06-3-06 Magisterial District is: 814-476-7735.
The Magisterial District Judge for 06-3-08 is Christopher K. MacKendrick . The 06-3-08 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:6880 Route 215 PO Box 157 East Springfield, PA 16411
The phone number for 06-3-08 Magisterial District is: 814-922-7117. The fax number for 06-3-08 Magisterial District is: 814-922-7118.
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).
Small Claims Court in Erie 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. The claim, or amount in controversy, cannot exceed $12,000.00. The plaintiff is also required to file a filing fee (which varies depending on how much money the plaintiff is asking for). 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.
After the Erie 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. A copy of the Notice of Appeal will be served on the judge (who made the decision) and the plaintiff in the case. The Notice of Appeal prevents the plaintiff from collecting any money 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.
Steps Before Filing a Case in Erie County Small Claims Court
You should send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment before filing your claim. A demand letter can be the cheapest and quickest way of resolving your situation. 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. Before filing your case, you need to learn the name and address of the party you are filing your case 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. 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
- name and address of the defendant
- the dollar amount of damages
- 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 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. 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. Personal service can be more expensive than certified mail but can be quicker than certified mail.
Erie County Magisterial District Court Small Claims Court Hearing
Once you file your claim, the clerk will schedule a hearing (usually between 12 and 60 days from the date you filed your claim). Each party should gather all documents and papers related to the case before the hearing. 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. The plaintiff and defendant will both be sworn in to present testimony to the judge. 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 plaintiff will probably also be asked questions by the defendant. 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. 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.