What is the Procedural Amount
Under its statutory authority, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered that the procedural amount applicable to civil cases, including personal injury claims, brought in the Superior Court increase from $25,000. to $50,000. for all cases commenced on or after January 1, 2020. Cases involving less than $50,000. in damages must be brought in state District Court starting in the new year. This procedural amount apportions the case load between the two courts which have concurrent jurisdiction in the Commonwealth and had not been changed since 1986.
The procedural amount is the amount of damages reasonably likely to be recovered by the plaintiff at the time the lawsuit is filed. The amount of damages claimed must be revealed in the Civil Action Cover Sheet filed with the Complaint in Superior Court or the form Statement of Damages in the District Court.
Differences Between District Court and Superior Court
With this change there will likely be far more cases prosecuted in District Court, so now is a good time to review the significant differences between practices in the Superior and District Courts in Massachusetts.
- You are entitled to a jury trial in both Superior and District Court, but Superior Court has a 12-person jury, whereas District Court has a 6-person jury. Filing and case management practices are also different in each court.
- A judge hearing a case jury-waived in Superior Court must issue written Findings of Fact and Rulings of Law, whereas a judge in the District Court need not do so unless a party files proposed findings and rulings prior to closing arguments.
- You can appeal a final decision of either court. An appeal from a Superior Court decision is directly to the Appeals Court, however, an appeal from a District Court is to the Appellate Division of the District Court, and then to the Appeals Court, if necessary. The Appellate Division has its own set of rules and timeline.
- The procedural amount does not effect the amount of damages that can be awarded by the Superior Court or District Court.
Challenging the Procedural Amount
A defendant who wants to challenge whether a case satisfies the procedural amount must do so in their Answer to the Complaint or by a pre-answer Motion to Dismiss (M.R.C.P. 12(b)(10)). When the issue is properly raised, the judge must dismiss the action if they determine, following written submissions from the parties and a hearing, that there is no reasonable likelihood that recovery by the plaintiff will meet the procedural amount. If the case is dismissed, the plaintiff may recommence the case in the appropriate court, with a credit for the filing fee already paid.
If the statute of limitation has run since the time of the initial filing of the Complaint, the plaintiff has 30-days within which to recommence the action after receipt of the notice of dismissal notwithstanding the expiration of the statute of limitation.
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If you or a loved one were injured because of someone’s negligence, obtain a copy of our Free Book, 7 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Personal Injury Claim. In addition, you can contact Attorney Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our free consultation form. We look forward to talking to you about your claim.