Small Claims Court in Indiana County
Magisterial District Courts in Pennsylvania handle a wide variety of cases including what are commonly known as small claims court cases. A party is not required to have an attorney for a small claims court case in a Magisterial District Court. The amount of the claim you are filing 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). There may also be an additional cost for serving the Defendant. These costs can potentially be recovered by you if you win the case.
Indiana County Magisterial District Court Small Claims 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. 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. On the day of the hearing the courtroom will include the following: court clerk, judge, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses that either side intends to call. 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 case (or calendar), the Magisterial District Judge will usually briefly explain the procedures used at the hearing. Plaintiff and Defendant will both be sworn in at the beginning to present testimony to the court. During the hearing, the plaintiff will be given an opportunity to testify about what happened that caused the plaintiff to file the claim. 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 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. After the plaintiff is done presenting his or her case, the judge will give the defendant an opportunity to testify (and the plaintiff will be given the chance to ask questions as well). 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).
Magisterial District Court in Indiana County
Indiana County has 4 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 40-2-01 is Guy B. Haberl . The 40-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:829 Water Street Indiana, PA 15701
The phone number for 40-2-01 Magisterial District is: 724-463-8781. The fax number for 40-2-01 Magisterial District is: 724-465-3967.
The Magisterial District Judge for 40-3-01 is Christopher S. Welch . The 40-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1450 Franklin Street Clymer, PA 15728
The phone number for 40-3-01 Magisterial District is: 724-254-4348. The fax number for 40-3-01 Magisterial District is: 724-254-1111.
The Magisterial District Judge for 40-3-02 is Susanne V. Steffee . The 40-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:20 West Indiana Street Homer City, PA 15748
The phone number for 40-3-02 Magisterial District is: 724-479-8082. The fax number for 40-3-02 Magisterial District is: 724-479-5053.
The Magisterial District Judge for 40-3-03 is Jennifer J. Rega . The 40-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:147 East Market Street Blairsville, PA 15717
The phone number for 40-3-03 Magisterial District is: 724-459-7203. The fax number for 40-3-03 Magisterial District is: 724-459-0480.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Indiana 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 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 business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract involved was signed or performance was made
- the accident occurred
- the property that the case is about is located
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. You should also contact them to determine what the filing fee will be. The filing fee can be paid by the plaintiff when the case is actually filed. The complaint form can be found under “Civil Complaint” here. If the plaintiff intends to place confidential information on the “Civil Complaint,” the plaintiff also needs to complete the “Confidential Information Form” which is located on the same page.
Indiana County Small Claims Court Case Types
A Magisterial District Judge generally hears negligence and breach of contract actions with respect to civil cases. A contract is where two parties enter into an agreement (either written or oral). 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 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 person or party has a responsibility to use reasonable care to protect others from damages and fails to do so. These actions usually include traffic accidents or other types of situations resulting in personal injury or property damage.
Filing a Case in Indiana County Magisterial District Court
Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed in a court called common pleas court. However, the Magisterial District Court is not as formal and is cheaper than a case in common pleas court. The Common Pleas Court requires an attorney to handle your case. Magisterial District Court does not require an attorney.
Prior to Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Indiana County Magisterial District Court
You should send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment before filing your claim. 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 court is unable to accept a P.O. Box. It needs a physical address. 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). 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 money you are filing your claim for (including all expenses)
- 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)
The court allows a plaintiff to file a complaint through the mail, but a plaintiff should file it in person so the court clerk can notify you if there are any problems with your complaint. The plaintiff can also pay the filing fee in person at the courthouse. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will have to pay a fee to have the Defendant served. A Defendant can be served by certified mail or in person by a deputy 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).
Indiana County Magisterial District Court Appeal
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 file an appeal at the 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 will be served on the Magisterial District Judge who made the decision along with 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. The plaintiff can also appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision if the judge ruled for the defendant at the hearing.