What do I need to know about filing a small claims court case?

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated October 2013

If you go to small claims court to get your property or the value of your property from the person who abused you, the property must be worth $7,000 or less12. But you can bring a claim for property damage from an auto accident that is worth more than $7,000.

There is a small claims court in every District Court and Boston Municipal Court. You can file in the District Court where you or the Defendant lives or works or has her business. For landlord tenant cases, you can file in the District or Housing Court where the apartment is. 

To file a small claims case you fill out a Statement of Small Claim and Notice of Trial form. See instructions for filling out the Statement.

The filing fee is between $40.00 and $150.00, depending on how much the property you are claiming is worth.

Property value Fee
$500 and under: $40
$501 to $2,000: $50
$2,001 to $5,000: $100
$5,001 to $7,000: $150
more than $7,000:    $150

If your income is low enough, you can file an Affidavit of Indigency so that you do not have to pay court costs.

In your Statement of Claim you have to show that the personal property belongs to you. In small claims court, you ask for “money damages.” That means that you ask for an order that the other person pay you what the property is worth. When you ask for money damages, the judge can order the defendant to return your property to you13

The court can ask you and person who abused you to go through mediation. You do not have to go through mediation. You can refuse mediation and you do not have to have a reason for refusing14.

You can learn more about the steps for filing a claim in small claims court on the Small Claims Advisory Service website, Filing a Claim (click on the tab at the top "Small Claims Procedure").

For more information, contact the Small Claims Advisory Service, (617) 497-5690 or fill out their online form.

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Chapter 11. Appendix

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