Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Small Claims Redefined - Up to $7,000

As part of AN ACT RELATIVE TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT REORGANIZATION on August 5, 2010, the Massachusetts legislature raised the amount in dispute that may be heard in small claims court from $2,000 to $7,000. SECTION 156 of said Act states:
Section 21 of chapter 218 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, lines 6 and 35, the following words, "two thousand dollars" and inserting in place thereof, in each instance, the following figure:- $7,000.

There is no doubt that this will increase the number of small claims cases, with the hope that it will also decrease the caseload on the district court process. This change may also increase the overall number of claims, however, by making it easier for potential creditors to seek judicial relief from debtors.

Small claims court is operated slightly differently from ordinary district court. The process is streamlined so that disputes are heard quicker than in the district courts. Instead of a judge and jury hearing the case, a court magistrate will preside and make a judgment.

Small claims court was designed to create a user-friendly environment for resolving disputes over an amount of money that was too small to justify hiring an attorney or having lengthy discovery and trials. Because of the expanded jurisdiction of small claims court to hear controversies over larger sums of money, there is more an incentive to hire representation since there is more at stake. The process can still be cheaper than district court, though, because of the simpler and quicker procedure.

For more information and frequently asked questions regarding small claims court procedure in Massachusetts, visit the Massachusetts Small Claims website or our new Small Claims page.

If you are owed money that you have not been successful in collecting on your own, or if you have had a small claims suit filed against you (called a "Statement of Claim and Notice of Trial") and wish to speak with an attorney regarding representation, contact Attorney Matthew Trask or call 508.655.5980 to schedule a One-Hour Initial Consultation.

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