John B. Stewart, Attorney at Law
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Of the firm Murphy & Manitsas, LLP
Springfield, MA
Practice Areas
    > News > May 2009

Small Claims is not always so Small. 

On behalf of an insurer I recently prosecuted (and won) a $15,000 claim in the Small Claims Session of the District Court.  There is an exception to the $2,000 limit of damages for cases involving motor vehicle property damage.  This expedited procedure allowed for a hearing on the merits only six weeks after suit was filed, but also required a lot of work to be ready for anything on the day of trial since there is no discovery and no answer is even filed giving notice of defenses. 

Small Claims matters are heard by Clerk-Magistrates, not Judges or Juries.  However, a Defendant sued in Small Claims has a right, before the Small Claims hearing, to remove the claim to the regular District Court civil session for a jury trial.   In addition, a Defendant dissatisfied with a Magistrate's ruling has a right to a re-trial before a Jury of Six, with certain conditions. 
I have handled several jury trials which were appeals from an adverse finding by a Defendant in small claims.  These cases are interesting and it takes some savvy to know how to keep things low key and also be effective.

John B. Stewart, Attorney at Law, Of the firm Murphy & Manitsas, LLP
20 Maple Street, Suite 301, Springfield, MA 01103 • Ph (413) 206-9134 • Fax (413) 733-4403