A new law in Massachusetts now makes small claims procedures available for all types of contract and damages claims up to $7,000.

The Massachusetts District Court has a special court procedure where anyone can start an action by simply making a concise written statement of their claim and filing it with the district court clerk.  The court clerk then sends out a certified letter thereby eliminating the need for a claimant to deal with a formal summons and complaint.  After the certified letter is sent, the claim then is heard in an informal proceeding where the Massachusetts Rules of Evidence are not applied thereby simplifying the process even further.  Most claims under the $7,000 limit are permitted in a small claims court except for actions involving claims of slander and libel.

Also, it is important to note that the $7,000 limit also does not apply to automobile property damage claims. Those claims can be for any amount.  The $7,000 limit also does not apply to claims for double or treble damages under any of the Massachusetts General Laws, such as Chapter 93A (the statute governing unfair and deceptive business practices.)

The new law also sets the fees for the filing of small claims actions based upon the amount claimed.  the filing fees under the new law range from $30 for claims under $500 to $140 for claims over $5,000.

The new $7,000 small claims limit became effective on August 1, 2010 and does apply to existing claims that have not been filed as of yet.  The result of this law change is that a person who could not file a $5,000 small claim on July 31, 2010, would now be able to file this claim as a small claim proceeding as of August 2, 2010.

If you would like to learn more about how this law change may affect your small claim action or have any other legal question, please contact Owen Gallagher here.

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