Starting a Small Claims Case

NOTICE

Currently, we are accepting new cases in person. Appointments are preferred.

  • For questions about submitting a new case or to make an appointment call 215-686-7988
  • For questions about relisting a case or submitting a petition call 215-686-7980
  • For questions about submitting a writ of execution call 215-686-7989

Before starting a small claims case, you should decide if the court is the best way to resolve your issue. You can solve many disagreements with other methods, like mediation. Contact Good Shepherd to learn more or find a mediator for your issue.

What is a Small Claims Case?


Gathering Your Documents

You will need different documents depending on the case you are submitting. There are two types of small claims cases: Contract Actions and Negligence Actions. Learn more about Contract Actions and Negligence Actions. Make sure you have your documents ready and include them when you submit your case. You will need to include copies for the court and for the other side. You may not have all the documents listed. Do your best to collect what you have so you can show the court and support your case.

If you have documents that you did not submit with your original case you can still use them. Send them to the other side at least 10 days before your hearing.

 Contract Action Documents


  • Documents explaining the agreement between you and the other side (like signed agreements, contracts, letters, or emails)
  • Communication between you and the other side (like emails, letters, or messages)
  • Documents to show the issue (like photographs, diagrams, invoices, estimates, contracts, canceled checks, or credit card statements)

 Negligence Action Documents


  • Communication between you and the other side (like letters, emails, or messages)
  • Documents to show the issue (photographs, diagrams, invoices, estimates, contracts, and canceled checks). These might include:
    • Bills or records from licensed health care providers (hospitals, doctors, or therapists).
    • Bills for drugs, medical appliances, or equipment
    • Affidavits (sworn statements) from workers or doctors explaining how much they will charge for their services. You can get an affidavit form from the court after you submit your case.
    • Affidavits (sworn statements) from workers about the value of the damaged property. You can get an affidavit form from the court.
    • Estimates and the cost of a repair or damaged property
    • An earnings report from your employer showing time lost from work or lost pay
    • An official weather or traffic signal report
    • A standard United States government life expectancy table
    • A document that seems to be from normal business

Subpoenas

The court tells the other side to give you documents

If there are documents you need to support your case, you can ask for them. You should try and ask the other side for the documents first. If they will not or are unable to give you the documents, you can ask them with a court form. This is called a subpoena. A subpoena means they need to give you the documents. If they do not give you the documents, they might be arrested or have to pay a fine. You can ask for documents from anyone by giving them a completed Subpoena Form.



Here is how you fill out a Subpoena form:

  • Include your claim number
  • Complete the caption of the case. The caption is your claim number, the other side's name and address, and your name and address.
  • Include the name of the other side getting the subpoena
  • Explain in detail what documents you want from the other side
  • Take the Subpoena Form to the First Filing Unit so it can get a court seal
    • 1339 Chestnut Street, 10th floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107
  • Pay the $3.30 fee with cash, credit, or debit card

If you have any questions, please contact the First Filing Unit at 215-686-2901


Information About the Other Side

Because you are suing someone else, you are called the plaintiff. The other side is called the defendant. Make sure you know the name and address of the other side you want to sue. Do not include titles such as Mr. or Ms. The address cannot be a post office box. If the other side is a corporation or other organization, make sure you have the correct name.


It is important to make sure you are including the correct organization in your lawsuit. For more information on organizations in Pennsylvania, contact Pennsylvania’s Corporation Bureau. You can ​​check if an organization has a Philadelphia business privilege license. Contact the Department of Licenses and Inspections’ License Issuance Unit to learn more. You will need the business address and the name of the right person at the business to sue them.


Submitting the Case

Submit in Person

  • Go to the court - First Filing Unit office on the 10th floor of 1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1000.
    • You can also allow someone else to take action for you. If you are out of state or an elderly person, you may want to have a representative go to court for you. You can do this by filling out the Authorized Representative Form. They are not allowed to submit a case for you without filling out this form first. If your lawyer is a member of the bar they do not need to fill out the form.
  • Complete the paperwork. The First Filing Unit has interviewers to help you complete the right paperwork. The interviewers cannot give you legal advice.
  • Pay the fee. The fee will pay for your case to be processed and for someone to tell the other side about the case (this is called service of process). To learn more about how to tell someone about a lawsuit, watch this short video. Find out how much you will have to pay to submit a case. We accept Money Orders, Business Checks, and Attorney Checks. We do not accept personal checks. Checks should be made payable to The Office of Judicial Records.
    • If you are unable to pay the fee, you can submit a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Form (sometimes called a fee waiver). The judge will decide if you do not need to pay the fee based on your income and expenses.

Submit by Mail

  • Download, print, and complete the Statement of Claim Form and Instructions Packet. Make sure you type the form. Remember to clearly explain the reason you are submitting a case and include dates when possible.
    • Complete the Affidavit of Non-Military Form for each individual person you are suing. This is not needed if the other side is a business or organization.
  • Sign the form 
    • If you represent a business, you must be an executive officer (President, Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer). Bring proof that you are allowed to speak for the organization. Proof could be things like articles of incorporation showing that you are an officer of the corporation. You can also allow someone else to take action for you. You can do this by filling out the Authorized Representative Form. They are not allowed to submit a case for you without filling out this form first. If your lawyer is a member of the bar they do not need to fill out the form.
  • Include a copy of all the documents you need for your case. Review the documents you need to include above.
  • Include the fee. The fee will pay for your case to be processed and for someone to tell the other side about the case (this is called service of process). To learn more about how to tell someone about a lawsuit, watch this short video. Find out how much you will have to pay to submit a case here. Make the check payable to The Office of Judicial Records. If you are unable to pay the fee, you can submit a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Form. The judge will decide if you do not need to pay the fee. Bring proof that you cannot afford the fee when you go to court.
  • Include a self-addressed and stamped envelope. We will use this to send you the hearing information.
  • You can call us at 215-686-7988 to confirm that all your documents and fees are correct.
  • Mail your packet to the First Filing Department 
    1339 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Once the court processes the case, you will receive a packet of information. This packet will have your case files, relevant forms, and affidavits (sworn statements). It will also include instructions to create a Case Participant Account. A Case Participant Account allows you to view your confidential documents and other information online.


Relisting a Case

Relisting a case means you are trying to submit the case again. There are a few reasons this might happen. When you submit a case, you must tell the other side that they are being sued (this is called service of process). To learn more about how to tell someone about a lawsuit, watch this short video. Sometimes the other side cannot be contacted. Other times, a case may be dismissed or ended early. This can happen if there are mistakes or errors in the case. This is called “dismissed without prejudice”. If your case was dismissed without prejudice, you can fix any issues with your case and then submit it again.


You can relist a case with the Second Filing Unit.

1339 Chestnut Street, 10th floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107

215-686-7980


FAQs

What is a Statement of Claim and why did I get one?

You got a Statement of Claim because someone is suing you. They sued you because they think you owe them money. The Statement of Claim says why the person thinks you owe them money. Read the Statement of Claim carefully so you understand what the other side is saying.


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What is the date, time, and location of my hearing?

On the left side of the Statement of Claim under the heading “Summons to the Defendant,” you will find the date, time and location of the hearing. All hearings are in a courtroom on the 6th floor of the Widener Building, 1339 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. It is important that you show up on time. If you are late, you might automatically lose the case.


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What should I do if I can not go to my hearing?

If you want to reschedule your hearing date, you need to ask the court in writing at least 10 days before the hearing. This is called making a request for a continuance.

  • Write a letter to the court explaining that you’d like to request a continuance.
    • The letter must include the reason why you need to reschedule
    • Include your case number if possible
    • Include your phone number
  • Send the letter to the court:
    • John J. Joyce, Deputy Court Administrator
    • 1339 Chestnut Street Room 1020, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
    • You can also email the letter to mcclaims@courts.phila.gov
  • Send a copy to the other side in the case

If you do not ask to reschedule the hearing at least 10 days in advance, you must go to the hearing in person. At the hearing, you can ask to reschedule it. You must tell the other parties in advance that you plan to request a continuance at the hearing.


Do I need a lawyer?

No. The Municipal Court is designed so that you can go through the legal process without a lawyer. If you decide that you want a lawyer, you can contact the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (215) 238-6333. You might qualify for a free lawyer or free legal advice.

Do I need to submit any forms before coming to my hearing?

If you want to challenge the lawsuit because you don’t think you should have to pay the other side, complete the Notice to Defend.

  • Make a copy if you can
  • Mail the Notice to Defend to the person or company that is suing you at least 5 days before hearing
  • Use the addressed envelope that came with the Notice to Defend
  • Bring a copy of the Notice to Defend to the hearing
  • If the Notice to Defend did not come with an envelope, you do not have to fill it out. You can still challenge the lawsuit.

By filing this notice, you are telling the court three things:

  • You plan to challenge the case (you don’t believe you should have to pay the other side)
  • You want a judge to decide your case (you want a hearing)
  • You want the company or person suing you to be ready to prove their case on your first trip to court so that you do not have to go to court more than once.

If you think that the Municipal Court is not where you should be sued, please call Court Administration at 215-686-2910 as soon as possible. This might happen if you are not a resident of Philadelphia or if your case is for more than the $12,000 limit of Municipal Court. Staff will explain how to submit a letter to notify the court.

If you believe that you have a claim against the person who sued you or you believe that another person should be a party to the action, please call the Fist Filing Unit at 215-686-7988 as soon as possible and a member of the court’s staff will explain to you how to submit a counterclaim, cross-claim, or additional claim. The court does not require or accept what you may have heard described as an Answer, New Matter, or Preliminary Objections.


What should I bring to the hearing?

You should bring all documents and witnesses that support your case. Documents can include letters, canceled checks, bills of sale, contracts, agreements, canceled checks, photographs, account books, and paid bill receipts. Documents should be printed and not on a cell phone. Make sure you bring copies of all documents for the other side.


What happens if I do not show up at the hearing?

If you do not show up for your hearing you risk losing your case. This is called a Default Judgment. Learn more about how to reschedule your hearing.


What do I need to bring to court if I am representing an organization that is being sued?

If you represent an organization, you must be an executive officer (President, Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer). Bring proof that you are allowed to speak for the organization. Proof could be things like articles of incorporation showing that you are an officer of the corporation. You may also complete and bring an Authorized Representative Form.


What if I have a question that is not listed above?

Call the court at 215-686-2910 or come to the court at 1339 Chestnut Street, 10th floor, Room 1000



Forms

Resources


Call 215-686-7000 for general court information.

Contact

Business Hours

  • Monday-Friday: 9am - 5pm
  • Saturday: Closed
  • Sunday: Closed

Small Claims Information