We own a small business outside of Boston. We have been trying to collect a business debt for $9000 without any luck. Can I file a claim in small claims court for the money owed to our business or do I need an attorney? What are the guidelines for filing small claims and what fees are associated if I do this on my own vs. hiring an attorney?
In Massachusetts, small claims are brought for matters of $7,000.00 or less, except for an action for property damage caused by a motor vehicle. You have stated that your claim is for $9,000.00 so you would likely have to bring your case in District Court. If, however, your claim is divisible you could attempt to bring two separate cases in small claims court. For example if you had once invoice for $4,000.00 and another for $5,000.00 you could bring to cases and then attempt to have them heard together. You do not need an attorney to file a small claims case, but you can hire one if you desire. The procedure for bringing a small claims matter would be to go the appropriate District Court where your business operates or where the Defendant resides and you would fill out a form called a “Statement of Claim and Notice of Trial” and pay the filing fee. The filing for small claims varies between $40 and $150.00 depending upon the size of the claim. The court will then set a trial date and you will appear at trial and present your case. A trial is usually informal, but you will want to prepare important documentation to support your claim for $9,000.00 and explain how the transaction arose. An advantage in hiring an attorney is that they are skilled in preparing their case, know what evidence is needed to win a case and can often take aggressive steps, such as attachments, to try to collect any monies awarded. By bringing the claim yourself, you may save attorney fees, but you may not have the experience necessary to win your case and/or to collect what is owed. Good luck.
The Greater Boston Business Attorneys at Goldman & Pease provide legal representation for all business related matters in Needham, Massachusetts and the surrounding communities including Newton, Brookline, Dedham, Westwood, Dover, Wellesley, Weston and the entire Boston Metrowest region.