Filing your civil suit in small claims court can save you time and money. Maryland District Courts handle small claims cases. The procedures and rules for small claims cases are the same throughout the state and are mandated by the Code of Maryland.
Limitations of Small Claims in Maryland
The small claims division of the District Court is designed to provide fast, inexpensive relief to citizens. The procedures are less complicated, but as a result, limitations on which cases may be brought to small claims court exist.
These limitations include:
- The plaintiff may only request damages of $5,000 or less
- Only monetary relief is allowed. For example, the judge won't order the defendant to return property or act on a contract
- Pre-trial discovery is not allowed. You cannot request interrogatories -- a list of questions -- to the defendant for him to answer prior to the trial
As with any civil lawsuit in Maryland, small claims have a statute of limitations of three years; you must file your complaint within three years of the event.
Advantages of Small Claims in Maryland
When you file a small claim, you'll enjoy certain advantages over filing a regular civil lawsuit:
- You're not required to use an attorney, which saves you money in legal fees
- In most cases, your trial is scheduled within 60 days of filing
- You'll save money on filing fees
Maryland Small Claims Procedures
To bring your lawsuit to court, file the Complaint/Application and Affidavit in Support of Judgment form with the District Court clerk and pay applicable fees. You can ask the court clerk for assistance to complete the form, or consult the Small Claims booklet compiled by the Maryland District Court.
The court clerk will send a summons to the defendant, along with the copy of the complaint. The summons informs him that he's being sued and compels him to court so he may defend himself. You may choose which method the clerk uses to serve the summons:
- Certified Mail
- Personal service by the Sheriff
- Personal service by the Constable
- Personal service by a private process server
Methods of service may have different fees; ask the court clerk for details.
At the trial, you must prove that the defendant owes you money. Be prepared to provide evidence, such as a contract, estimate or letter. You also may call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
If the judge finds in your favor, he will issue a judgment against the defendant for a specific dollar amount. You're responsible for collecting the money from the defendant. If you disagree with the court's decision, you have the right to appeal in the Maryland Circuit Court.