Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the District Court

Revised and Printed April 2012
Revised for the Internet April 2012
Published by: Administrative Office of the Courts, Portland, Maine

The guide is also available to download. The file below require the free Adobe Reader.

Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the District Court (PDF)

How to Use this Guide:

  • READ IT ALL!
  • Read it all again.
  • Highlight the sections that particularly pertain to your case.
  • Check your preparation to be sure you have followed the instructions.

Related Information:

  • Small Claims Forms
  • District Court Listing
  • County Sheriff Listing
  • For more information about Consumer Protection, please visit, the links below. (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.
    • Housing: houses, apartments, mobile homes. Information about renting, home repairs, mobile homes, heating your home, lead paint, and information about contractors.
    • Motor Vehicles: Information about buying a car, defective vehicles, car repairs, the Maine Lemon Law, and warranties.
    • 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
    • Antitrust: Information about antitrust law and antitrust cases brought by the Maine Attorney General.

GENERAL INFORMATION

This booklet should be read in its entirety by all persons involved in a small claims proceeding. The term "plaintiff" refers to the person who files the case, and the term "defendant" refers to the person being sued. While this booklet is directed primarily to the plaintiff (referred to as "you" in this booklet), the information is important to both parties.

The purpose of the small claims law is to provide a simple, speedy, and informal court procedure. A small claims proceeding is held in the District Court. Formal rules of evidence are not applied at a small claims hearing. There are no juries in District Court. The plaintiff in a small claims proceeding gives up his/her right to a jury trial. If the plaintiff wins the small claims case in the District Court, the defendant is entitled to appeal and have a jury trial in the Superior Court in those types of cases for which a jury trial is usually available.

The small claims law is found in Maine Revised Statutes, Title 14, (sections 7481-7487). In addition, the Supreme Judicial Court has established rules of procedure which are contained in the most recent edition of the Maine Court Rules (small claims procedure rules-PDF). These books are available in any county law library and in most public libraries in the state.

Clerks in the District Court cannot give legal advice. However, they may be able to answer some questions about the procedure in a small claims case.

It is important for the parties in a small claims case to notify the District Court clerk's office, in writing, if there is a change of address while the case is pending in court because the clerk will mail notice of the hearing date to the address listed on the small claims complaint. If you do not tell the clerk our new address,you may not receive the notice of the trial date. If you do not appear a the hearing, an order my be entered in favor of the other party.

Example of Address Change Memo:
DATE 3/2/08
TO: Clerk of Court
Maine District Court, Courtown, ME 04000
FROM: Jane Doe, Plaintiff
DOCKET# SC-2008-1234
I am the plaintiff in the above named Small Claims case. My address
as of this date is:
123 New Street, Differentown, ME 04000
cc: Joe Smith, d/b/a Joe's Used Car's, defendant

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