Claims that can be brought as small claims
Unless your claim is based upon property damage from an automobile accident, it can’t be more than $7,000. However, the claim may be subject to statutory damages or attorney’s fees of over $7,000 (e.g., consumer protection cases or certain landlord/tenant cases). In those cases, the base amount can’t be more than $7,000, even though the potential award may be more than that amount.
Claims against public employees for negligence
Most claims for money damages against the Commonwealth, a state agency or authority, or a city or town that are based on the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of a public official or employee must be brought under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, M.G.L. c. 258. Claims under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act must be filed in the Superior Court and can’t be brought as small claims in the District Court.
You may bring a small claim in the District Court that’s based on a government contract, is against a housing authority, or is authorized by some other statute, such as the “pothole law,” M.G.L. c. 84, § 15 for municipal roads or c. 81, § 18 for state roads.
Time limits on filing claims
The time limit (called the “statute of limitations”) varies based the nature of the claim and applies both to small claims and to regular civil lawsuits. Generally, a claim based on a contract or a consumer protection law must be brought within 6 years, and a claim resulting from negligence or intentional harm must be brought within 3 years, but there are exceptions. See M.G.L. c. 260, a law library or an attorney for more information.