Frequently Asked Questions
I have been wronged, and want to sue. What do I need to do first?
First, send a "demand letter" to the person you want to sue–preferably typed. Include a chronology (or account) of what happened. Be as specific as you can, and mention dates, specific contracts, or interactions. Secondly, include the amount of money that the defendant owes you. Lastly, include a statement that informs the reader that "If you do not fulfill this request within 30 days, I intend to sue in small claims court."
If the other party does not respond within 30 days, then you should begin the small claims process.
Where do I sue?
Use the courthouse that serves the city in which you live or work or where the defendant lives or works.
It’s recommended that you go to the court where the defendant is located so it is easier to enforce a judgment if you win the case. (If you choose a court near yourself, you will have to file a different form in the court near the defendant, and it will cost money to file).
How much does it cost, and can I get my money back?
If your claim is $500 or less, it costs $40 to file.
If your claim is $500.01 to $2,000.00, it costs $50 to file.
If your claim is $2,000.01 to $5,000.00, it costs $100 to file.
If your claim is $5,000.01 to $7,000.00, it costs $150 to file.
You can usually recover this filing fee — there is a field on the small claims filing form for that. However, that decision is up to the clerk magistrate.
I’ve won my case — how do I get my money back?
The judge should set up a payment hearing (either on the day of the hearing, or at a later date) for the debtor and the creditor to set up a payment agreement. If you did not file in a courthouse near the defendant’s workplace or residence, you will have to file a supplementary process application at a court in one of those two areas.
Can I sue someone who is out of state?
The Massachusetts "Long-Arm Statute" allows plaintiffs to sue parties who are out-of-state as long as they do business in Massachusetts, possesses property in Massachusetts, or contracts/supplies services in Massachusetts. If the party profits from business in Massachusetts and their action/lack of action also causes substantial damage in Massachusetts, then they also may be sued.
What do I say in court? Will I win my case?
While we cannot say whether or not you will win your case, a good guide to what to present to the clerk magistrate is as follows:
- A brief overview of the conflict.
- A more detailed chronology of what happened. Be sure to be organized, clear, and concise; bring along evidence such as receipts, call records, or pictures that might help your case.
- What you’ve already done to try to solve the problem.
- What the law says should happen.
- A suggestion for how much you are owed.
I have just been sued. Do I show up in court?
Yes. If you do not show up in court, the plaintiff (whoever is suing you) will automatically win the case. Being in court allows you to tell your side of the story and ask for a settlement that will be more beneficial for you.
Is there anything else I should know about suing a business?
Under Chapter 93A of Massachusetts General Law, you can sue for double or triple damages–meaning that if the business owes you $100, you are entitled to sue them for $200 or $300. Mentioning Chapter 93A and double/triple damages in the demand letter would also be helpful.