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Massachusetts Court Records

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What are Massachusetts Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?

In Massachusetts, small claims cases are civil disputes involving claims of $7000 or less. However, the claims may be higher for cases that involve property damages as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Claims brought under the Consumer Protection Law may also surpass the $7000 limit.

Class action lawsuits involve a large number of plaintiffs taking a single action against the same defendant that they have similar legal differences. Small claims matters and class action suits are handled by the state courts.

Small claims cases are heard in the District Courts, the Boston Municipal Courts, and the Housing Courts, while the District Courts solely hear class action lawsuits.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Massachusetts?

A class-action lawsuit in Massachusetts provides an opportunity for multiple parties with similar grievances to file a consolidated lawsuit against the same individual or entity. One or a few more plaintiffs usually represent a class and file the consolidated suit. Rule 23 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedures contains the guidelines of class action lawsuits in the state. The class must fulfill the following requirements before the court approves a class action lawsuit:

  • The class must be large enough
  • The fact of the case and questions of law must be similar to all members of the class
  • The claims and defense of the plaintiffs representing the class must be identical to the class members
  • The interest of the representative plaintiffs should be a reflection of that of the remaining class members.

How do I File a Claim in a Massachusetts Small Claims Court?

Individuals that wish to settle legal disputes amounting to $7000 or less in Massachusetts can file a claim in the small claims court. Persons can file claims at a District Court, Housing Court, or Boston Municipal Court where either the claimant or defendant resides or works. If the claim involves a landlord-tenant dispute, the claimant brings the small claim before the Housing Court located in the county that the rented property is situated.

To file a small claims suit, interested persons can visit the Clerk of Court and obtain a Statement of Claim and Notice form. The claimant must file the forms with the details of the claim, including the damages and the defendant’s correct details. The filing fee charge depends on the amount of claim. Small claims of $500 or less attract a filing fee of $40, while small claims between $5,001 and $7,000 attract a $150 filing charge. Claimants can file the completed forms in-person or via US mail. Upon filing, the clerk provides a copy of the completed form that contains the date and time of the court hearing. Claimants will also receive their case’s docket number or reference number.

The defendant also receives a copy of the small claims filing documents and may also file an Answer. Interested parties can also file their suit online via the guided interview for filing small claims. An eFiling fee of $7 may apply.

Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?

Parties that want to file a small claims suit in Massachusetts are not required to use a lawyer. However, they can employ the services of a lawyer if they wish. Lawyers specialize in different legal matters and can assist in filing a claim at the appropriate court. Although self-representation is allowed in court hearings, interested parties can retain a lawyer to represent them.

How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Massachusetts?

Class action lawsuits in Massachusetts offer a way for numerous plaintiffs to file a united suit against a particular business or individual. Typically, all the plaintiffs belong to the class, but only one or a few plaintiffs can represent the class and file the class action complaint in court. Massachusetts law states some requirements that must be met before the court can certify a party as a class action group. The law requires the members of a class action to be many and also have similar interests in the suit. The class-action representatives must have identical claims with the class and impartially protect the interests of the class.

Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?

A class-action lawsuit involves multiple plaintiffs in a legal dispute, while a single party suit is an action filed by just an individual. Class actions suits provide a cheaper and faster method for the plaintiffs because they use the same attorneys and do not have to pay multiple attorney fees. They also pay court-associated fees for just a suit. It may be more difficult for claimants in single party suits to collect a judgment, especially if the defendant files for bankruptcy. However, the representative plaintiff(s) in class actions have total control over the decisions concerning the suit, and this may result in a problem for other members of the class if their interests do not fully align.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Massachusetts?

The small claims courts hear civil disputes that involve claims of $7000 or less. Massachusetts small claims courts include the District Courts, the Boston Municipal Courts, and the Housing Courts. Cases heard in these courts include:

  • Unpaid rent;
  • Eviction from a property;
  • Damages on a property;
  • Unpaid medical treatment bills;
  • Professional misconduct;
  • Physical injuries sustained from the defect of a product;
  • Return of a security deposit; and
  • Any other claims of $7,000 or less.
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