One of the best kept secrets in business law is how companies can use small claims court to save money. In Pennsylvania, Magisterial District Courts (sometimes called “MDJs” for the Magisterial District Judges that sit in them) act as our small claims’ courts. Learning to navigate them can save time and money. MDJs have concurrent jurisdiction with the county Courts of Common Pleas for claims up to twelve thousand dollars, meaning you can file your claim in “big court” or in the MDJ.
Suing Without an Attorney
When small businesses have minor claims against business associates or customers who haven’t paid bills, the MDJs are a great venue to consider. Going to court in an MDJ does not always require the services of an attorney. Technically, any corporate entity, whether an LLC, a corporation, or similarly otherwise, is required to hire an attorney. This is because a corporate entity cannot represent itself the way an individual can. A corporate entity is technically a separate person. However, in practice, most MDJs allow a business to be represented by an owner or other representative pro se. As a practical matter, this means that businesses can pursue overdue bills, deadbeat tenants, and contract-breaching business associates without the expense of hiring a lawyer.
Of course, there are many benefits to having a lawyer, but even businesses that utilize the services of a corporate attorney will seek advice from this attorney on a specific case before deciding whether to undertake filing the suit and handling it themselves.
Small Claims Court is Quick
Another reason that small businesses utilize small claims court in Pennsylvania to save money is because the process to file in the MDJ is fast and leads to a hearing usually within around sixty days. Compared to filing in the Court of Common Pleas (the court that governs a county), this is lightning speed.
The MDJ will have one day of hearings, without any “discovery” process for producing documents between the parties, and without the litigation that accompanies the months of waiting on a response. MDJs don’t require complicated pleadings, and typically make a decision the day of the hearing or within a few days thereafter.
Small Claims Court gets the attention of your adversary
A final benefit to the MDJ process is that it is typically a simple way to get someone’s attention. It shows that you’re serious about collecting an overdue bill and triggers them to pay an attorney or at least respond. If they fail to show up to court, judgment is issued against them. Although you have the right to appeal from an MDJ decision within 30 days, as a practical matter, it often ends disputes and allows the parties to settle in the courtroom.
Conclusion: Call us for advice on how to handle your MDJ hearing
Our attorneys have helped business clients with hundreds of appearances before MDJs, and we’re ready to help you. Call us at Cornerstone Law Firm today to discuss how your business could save money by utilizing small claims court.