Maine Small Claims Court
Under Maine law, a party can file a small claims case in order to get a speedy resolution in a civil matter. In small claims proceedings, the person who is filing the suit is known as the plaintiff and the person who is being sued is the defendant. In a small claims case, the plaintiff can petition the judge to grant them any of the following:
- Grant monetary relief
- Grant equitable relief including:
- Orders to return
- Orders to reform
- Orders to refund
- Orders to repair
- Orders to rescind
Small claims court works to solve issues quickly and efficiently through informal court procedure. Small claims are heard in Maine District Courts. These courts do not use juries so the judge will hear each party's arguments and issue a ruling. Formal rules regarding presenting evidence are not followed in small claims court and the plaintiff must waive their right to a jury.
If you would like to find out more about filing a small claim in Portland, Bangor or anywhere in Maine, contact a Small Claims Attorney at WTB Law.
Filing a Small Claim in Maine
Anyone over the age of 18 can bring forth a small claim. Any person under 18 must have a parent or legal guardian file the case for that. Likewise, defendants must be over 18 or else a parent or guardian will be listed as the defendant of the suit. Filing a small claim is relatively easy compared to other types of civil litigation. The cost of a small claim consists of a $50 filing fee. Additionally, the defendant will need to be served papers notifying them of the case. This may lead to additional charges if a plaintiff chooses to have the paperwork served for them.
While small claims court is a good way to get results quickly, there are limitations on what kinds of cases can be heard in small claims court:
- Small claims are limited to cases involving a debt or a contract where the plaintiff is seeking damages of $6,000 or less. Even if the actual debt has a value greater than this amount, a judge will not award more than $6,000 in a small claims case. This does not include, however, interest, filing costs or any additional costs associated with filing the suit and serving the defendant. Plaintiffs who win their small claims case may be awarded these costs in addition to the amount of money they requested.
A small claim case must be used to settle a civil issue that does not involve a municipality. Examples including motions to collect a debt, collect damages, have a good returned, have an illegal contract canceled, have a defective a defective good repaired or replaced or have money refund. Small claims court does not apply to real estate or title cases or tort claims.
The Maine Small Claims Court Process
The first step in filing a small claim is to complete a Statement of Claim. In this document, the plaintiff will need to list the nature of the dispute, the type of relief that is sought and any other pertinent information. Next, the plaintiff will need to serve a copy of this document to the defendant. Under Maine law a defendant is not allowed to counterclaim a plaintiff in a small claims case. If the defendant has their own claim against the plaintiff, they must bring forth their own case in civil court or small claims court.
Within 20 days of completing the service process, the plaintiff must file proof of service, the Statement of Claim and pay the $50 fee in order to file the case. At this point, both parties will be notified by mail of a hearing date. If either party needs to have the date rescheduled, they will need to file a Request for Continuance.
At the hearing, parties can represent themselves or use an attorney. The court process is an informal one and both sides will present their evidence and explain their version of the events. Parties can also request witnesses testify. If a witness cannot attend the trial, they can instead issue a written, sworn statement.
In some cases, the judge may order parties to attend mediation before going to trial. Mediation is an informal process that involves an impartial third party who works with the plaintiff and defendant to attempt to reach a compromise. If a settlement is reached during mediation, the judge will have to approve it but then the hearing can be avoided.
After all information has been presented, the judge can make a ruling. In some cases, the judge may take some time to make a decision and notify the parties of their ruling by mail. All rulings in a small claims court are final and another case either civil or small claims cannot be filed regarding the same debt or contract. If the defendant is not happy with the ruling of the judge, they may file an appeal and have a jury trial in Maine Supreme Court.
Maine Small Claims Complaints Lawyer
This process is not always easy and can be confusing to some. Individuals are not required to hire attorneys for a small claims case. However, a lawyer can help with every step of the process from filing the paperwork to preparing for trial. If you are considering filing a suit in small claims court, call a Maine small claims attorney right now. At WTB Law, we strive to get our clients the results they want as painlessly as possible. For more information on the small claims process in Maine, see The District Court’s Small Claims page or contact our office.