How To Sue Someone In Small Claims Court Maryland

Learn how to sue someone in Small Claims Court in Maryland, including filing procedures, jurisdiction limits, and serving the defendant.

To file a small claims case in Maryland, any adult or entity can initiate the process.

If the plaintiff is under 18, someone 18 or older must act on their behalf.

The plaintiff initiates their small claims case by submitting a “Complaint” in the appropriate venue.

which includes identifying the names and addresses of the parties involved and providing a concise statement of the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant.

How To Sue Someone In Small Claims Court Maryland

Additionally, the plaintiff is required to pay a small filing fee at the clerk’s office.

Once the plaintiff files their claim, the court issues a “Writ of Summons” to notify the defendant of the lawsuit.

It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to ensure proper service of the Complaint and Writ of Summons on the defendant.

How To Sue Someone In Small Claims Court Maryland

Maryland’s small claims courts, handle cases involving disputes of up to $5,000.00, excluding court costs, interest, and attorney’s fees.

File claims exceeding $5,000.00 in the District Court, but place claims exceeding $25,000.00 in the Circuit Court.

Small claims courts exclusively deal with specific civil cases resulting in monetary judgments; they cannot handle replevin cases or requests for services.

Types of cases suitable for small claims court include contract disputes, personal injury, property damage, and some landlord-tenant disputes.

These cases maintain an informal nature, avoiding formal rules of evidence and prohibiting discovery methods like written interrogatories.

This informality allows many litigants to represent themselves; although, hiring an attorney is an option.

It is not a requirement for pursuing or defending small claims cases in Maryland.

Serving the Defendant In Small Claims Court Maryland

  • Serving the defendant is a crucial step in legal proceedings, informing them of the plaintiff’s lawsuit.
  • Proper service is vital, as the court won’t proceed without it.
  • The plaintiff must specify the chosen service method in their Complaint and can select from the following options:

Certified mail:

The court clerk sends the Writ of Summons to the defendant through certified mail, with a return receipt as proof of service.

Sheriff’s office:

The court clerk forwards the Writ of Summons to the sheriff’s office, and the sheriff attempts service at the provided address.

An Affidavit of Service is then submitted to the courthouse.

Private process server:

An adult not involved in the case or a private process server company can be tasked with personally serving the defendant.

The court sends the Writ of Summons to the plaintiff, who must then arrange for the chosen person to serve the defendant and file an Affidavit of Service.

  • When suing a business in small claims court, the plaintiff should serve documents on the business’s resident agent, using the official name found on the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation website.
  • The court clerk can provide guidance on filing and serving a small claims court case but cannot offer legal advice.

Where and When to File a Small Claims Case

  • All civil actions are bound by a statute of limitations, setting a timeframe for plaintiffs to file their claims, as governed by state law.
  • Typically, this period commences when the events leading to the lawsuit transpire.
  • Small claims cases should generally be filed in the District Court, based on the following criteria:
    • Where the defendant resides
    • The defendant works or is employed
    • Where the plaintiff resides (for cases against corporations whose primary location is outside Maryland)
    • Where the events giving rise to the action occurred (for cases involving torts)

Responding to a Small Claims Case

If you find yourself as the defendant in a small claims case, responding to the plaintiff’s Complaint is essential.

Failing to do so promptly can result in the court issuing a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

When the defendant disputes the plaintiff’s claims, they should file a Notice of Intention to Defend.

signaling to the court their disagreement with the allegations and their intent to participate in the trial to present their defenses.

This notice must be attached to the Complaint.

In case the defendant needs more time, they can request a trial postponement.

If the court denies the postponement request, the defendant must prepare to attend the trial on the scheduled date to avoid a default judgment.

Additionally, a defendant has the option to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff if they believe the plaintiff owes them money.

 

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