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Massachusetts Law About Small Claims

From the Mass. District Court: Which claims can be brought as small claims?

"Unless your suit is based upon property damage sustained in an automobile accident, it cannot exceed $7,000.00. The claim may, however, be subject to statutory damages or attorney's fees in excess of $7,000.00 (e.g., consumer protection cases or certain landlord/tenant cases). In those cases, the base amount may not exceed $7,000.00 even though the potential award may exceed that amount."

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c.218, s.21-25, Small Claims Procedure.

Rules and Fees

Uniform Magistrate Rules: Rule 4: Mediation of Small Claims Actions, Mass. Trial Court. Guidelines for electing and utilizing mediation by a magistrate in small claims.

Trial Court Rule III: Uniform Small Claims Court Rules, Mass. Trial Court, 2009.

Small Claims Standards, Mass. Trial Court, 2002. Note: These standards were written before the Uniform Small Claims Rules and do not reflect current rules.

Small Claims Fees, Mass. District Court. Fees (with surcharges) range from $40 to $150 depending on damages sought.

Forms

Small Claims Forms. Note: While many forms are available, the Statement of Small Claim form is not available on the web and must be picked up at the court. Forms are available in seven languages in addition to English.

Other Web Sources

Self-Help: Small Claims, Mass. Trial Court. Includes information from BMC, District Court and Housing Court, presented in a question and answer format.

Multilingual Videos Explaining the Small Claims Process, Mass. Trial Court. Steps you through the entire process in a series of seven short videos. Available in English and seven other languages. New!

Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court, Nolo, 2012. An overview on bringing a small claims case or defending yourself against one. Includes information on how to collect your money if you win, serving your papers, witnesses, getting ready for court and more. Requires Library Card for access.

How to Win Your Case in Small Claims Court Without a Lawyer, Atlantic Publishing, 2009. Requires Library Card for access.

Report of the Small Claims Working Group, Mass. Trial Court, District Court Department, August 1, 2007. After a one-year study, group recommended changes in Uniform Small Claims Rules and Small Claims Standards, as well as a statutory change, in order to better protect debtors and "to promote understanding by, and ensure equal treatment of, all parties." Recommendations include changes to notice requirements and procedures, entry of default judgments, property seizures, and more.

Small Claims Advisory Service. "Here you will find any information you need to learn more about small claims court, the relevant laws, and contact information to get further assistance from the SCAS organization." SCAS is a group of college undergraduates, not attorneys.

Small Claims Changes Effective October 1, 2009, Mass. District Court Transmittal 1026, Sept. 11, 2009. Includes everything you need to know about new small claims procedures, including "a one-page chart summarizing the amendments to the rules, a one-page checklist for entering default judgments, a redlined version of the rules and commentary, highlighting the changes, five new forms which will be used in implementing the new changes..., and revised instructions for the back of the “STATEMENT OF SMALL CLAIM AND NOTICE OF TRIAL” (DC-SC-1) form, which will be introduced when the form is next reprinted."

Small Claims Courts, Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs. Includes information on what to do, what court to go to, and more.

Small Claims May Require Big Decisions, by Marc G. Perlin and John M. Connors, 2012. Article originally published in Mass. Lawyers Weekly addresses the question, "Despite its advantages in terms of simplified procedure, speed, and informality, are there reasons for a plaintiff to avoid the small claims forum?"

Print Sources

Pursuing a Case in Small Claims Court, MCLE, 2010.

Small Claims, Big Results [CD Sound Recording], MCLE, 2010.