Small Claims Court
A small claims case in Maryland is one defined as having maximum damages of $5,000. If you are bringing a claim against someone else, or if someone else has brought a claim against you for $5,000 or less, then unique rules apply. These cases are not heard by a jury, but instead by a judge in what is known as a bench trial. They are heard in the District Courts of Maryland–most counties have one or more District Court.
There are a number of good reasons to bring a small claims case:
- The rules are simplified, making it easier for people to bring the case without hiring an attorney
- There is no formal written discovery allowed in small claims cases (for example, no interrogatories, requests for production of documents, or requests for admission of fact)
- The rules of evidence at trial are relaxed–judges know that many people bringing small claims cases are not trained lawyers, and they liberally allow much evidence that would be denied in other cases
- The case is only about money–you cannot request anything else, like return of property in a small claims case.
The best place to start for a small claims case is the website for the District Court of Maryland. In general, you will have to follow these steps:
- File a complaint with the Court (and pay the filing fee)
- Serve the lawsuit on the defendant after the Court sends you the Writ of Summons
- Send the Court proof that the defendant was properly served with the Complaint and Writ of Summons
- Appear at trial on the date decided by the Court
After you file documents, you should periodically check on the status of your case with the Maryland Judiciary Case Search, just in case mail from the Court does not properly make its way to you. This is also a good place to check to see if the defendant has any prior lawsuits in Maryland.