Small Claims Court
The "jurisdiction" of a court is the authority
of the court to hear and decide a particular type of case. The District
Court has jurisdiction over small claims cases in which the plaintiff
is seeking a money judgment of up to $6,000.
Before proceeding to a contested hearing, the parties are required to meet with a mediator to see whether they can resolve the case by agreement. Although the parties are not mandated to settle the case, they are required to mediate the case in good faith. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the mediator will so inform the Court, and the matter will then proceed to contested hearing, either that same day or on another specially-assigned day and time.
In hearings before the small claims court, witnesses shall testify under oath. The judge has the discretion to admit all evidence that he or she believes is relevant and has probative value; the technical rules of evidence do not apply in small claims actions. However, the plaintiff must still prove the elements of their claim in order to prevail, i.e. if the plaintiff is suing the defendant on grounds of breach of contract, the plaintiff needs to show that the parties had a contract, that the defendant "breached" (failed to live up to his or her responsibilities under the contract), that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the breach, and the amount of those damages claimed.
The successful small claims plaintiff will in most cases be awarded a money judgment. The judgment is judicial recognition that the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff for a particular sum of money. The plaintiff is not assured of actually receiving the money, however, since the judgment can only be enforced out of property or money belonging to the defendant. Remedies to enforce judgments are available, see 14 Maine Revised Statutes Annotated § 3120 et. seq.
Small claims forms and handbooks are available at the clerk's office at all Maine District Court locations. The Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in District Court is also available online. You should also review the Maine Rules of Small Claims Procedure, contained in the most recent edition of the Maine Rules of Court and 14 Maine Revised Statutes Annotated § 7451 et. seq.
For more information about Consumer Protection, please see the links below.
Consumer Information (Please note the links below will re-direct you to the Consumer Information section of the Attorney General's website.)
- Consumer Law Guide: This is a comprehensive review of Maine consumer law. It is our belief that if consumers and businesses are better aware of their legal rights and responsibilities, disputes can be more fairly resolved. This Guide is written by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, which includes among its duties the enforcement of our consumer and antitrust laws.
- Scams: A description of recent scams used on Maine consumers. Includes links to the Maine Attorney and Federal Trade Commission consumer complaint sites.
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- Identity Theft and Privacy: What it is and what to do if you?re a victim. Includes information about adding your phone number and address to the do not call list and do not mail list.
- Purchasing Goods and Services: Learn about the rights you have when you purchase something and are not satisfied.
- Charities: Information for consumers about donating to a charity. Information for charitable organizations. Also see: Guide for Board Members of Charitable Organizations
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