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Massachusetts law about small claims

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on small claims law by the Trial Court Law Libraries

Table of Contents

Which claims can be brought as small claims?

$7000 Claims up to $7000 can be brought as small claims

From the Mass. District Court: 

"Unless your suit is based upon property damage sustained in an automobile accident, it cannot exceed $7,000.00. The claim may, however, be subject to statutory damages or attorney's fees in excess of $7,000.00 (e.g., consumer protection cases or certain landlord/tenant cases). In those cases, the base amount may not exceed $7,000.00 even though the potential award may exceed that amount."

Best bets

Self-help: small claims, Mass. Trial Court
Start here to file your small claim. Includes information from BMC, District Court, and Housing Court.

Multilingual videos explaining the small claims process, Mass. Trial Court. 
Steps you through the entire process in a series of 7 short videos. Available in English and 7 other languages.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.218, §§ 21-25, Small claims procedure

MGL c.231, §§ 6B, 6C, 6H, Interest on damages set at 12%.

MGL c.260, Statutes of limitation. These are the time limits for filing a case in court but can be affected by other factors such as tolling (a reason to delay the time limit), discovery (when you discovered the harm) advance notice of claim (consumer protection 93A) and other issues. While many cases fall under one of these more common statutes of limitation, the facts of your claim may require a different one.   For more info, see our print sources below or discuss with an attorney.              

  • § 2, Contracts and judgments, 6 years
  • § 2A, Torts and personal injury, 3 years
  • § 5A, Consumer protection, 4 years

Rules and fees

Uniform Magistrate Rules: Rule 4: Mediation of Small Claims Actions, Mass. Trial Court
Guidelines for electing and utilizing mediation by a magistrate in small claims

Trial Court Rule III: Uniform Small Claims Court Rules, Mass. Trial Court, 2009

Filing fees in District Court and Boston Municipal Court, Mass. District Court 
Fees (with surcharges) range from $40 to $150 depending on damages sought.

Forms

Small claims guide and file
The easiest way to file!

This program will help you fill out the forms to file a small claim by asking you questions and then using your answers to create filled-in forms that you can electronically file in court.

If you do not use Guide and File, see Small claims forms. While many forms are available, the printed Statement of Small Claim form is not available on the web and must be picked up at the court. Forms are available in 7 languages in addition to English.

Selected cases

McMann v. McGowan, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 513 (2008).
The Court described a requirement of delivery “in hand” as placing the item “in the hand of the intended receiver”.

Trust Insurance Co. v. Bruce at Park Chiropractic Clinic, 430 Mass. 607 (2000).
The Court noted the legislature “simplified the small claims procedure by reducing the number of trials before a judge, or a judge with a jury, to one.”

Schubach v. Household Finance Corporation, 375 Mass. 133 (1978).
"Intentionally filing collection actions against consumers in inconvenient distant courts, with the purpose and effect of securing default judgments and gaining unfair advantage," may be an unfair and deceptive act under c.93A, "even though the company filed its actions in compliance with c. 223, Section 2."

Web sources

Everybody's guide to small claims court, Nolo, 2020
An overview on bringing a small claims case or defending yourself against one. Includes information on how to collect your money if you win, serving your papers, witnesses, getting ready for court, and more. Requires free library card for access.

Small claims advisory service
"Here you will find any information you need to learn more about small claims court, the relevant laws, and contact information to get further assistance from the SCAS organization." SCAS is a group of college undergraduates, not attorneys.

Small claims can require big decisions, by Marc G. Perlin and John M. Connors, 2012
Article originally published in Mass. Lawyers Weekly addresses the question, "Despite its advantages in terms of simplified procedure, speed, and informality, are there reasons for a plaintiff to avoid the small claims forum?"

Small claims courts, Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs
Includes information on whether small claims court is right for you, what to consider before filing, and more.

Suing home contractor for construction defects in small claims court in Massachusetts, Nolo.com
Explains the process of bringing a contractor to small claims court, as well as other options to consider.

What to do if you lose your small claims case, Mass. Trial Court.
If you sued and lost, that decision is final. But if you were sued by someone else and lost, you may be able to appeal.

Print sources

Handbook of civil procedure in the Massachusetts District Court by Marc G. Perlin, John M. Connors. With supplement. Chapter 15: Small Claims.

Massachusetts practice. v. 9 (Civil practice), 2004, Thomson/West with supplement. Chapter 15: Statutes of limitation. 

Pursuing a case in small claims court, MCLE, 2010

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: May 13, 2021
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