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If you are representing yourself in District Court, difference between “small” and “large” claims is perhaps the most important information you need to know about the legal process. Small Claims Court is a division of the District Court of Maryland. Understanding the important differences between a small claim and a large claim in District Court will help you prepare and present your case.
Amount of Claim
The amount of the claim refers to the amount of money you are trying to recover through your lawsuit.
Small Claim - The maximum amount of money you can try to recover in small claims court is $5,000 (excluding interest, costs and attorneys fees, if any). A small claims action can only request a money judgment. For example, if you are seeking the return of property, then you cannot use small claims.
Large Claim - If you are seeking any amount more than $5,000 but less than $30,000 (excluding interest, costs and attorneys fees, if any), then you have a large claim in District Court. Large claims may also include demands for orders protective order. Note that you may also have the option of filing your case in Circuit Court.
NOTE: Cases involving over $30,000 must be filed in Circuit Court, but there are exceptions. For example, a landlord/tenant case is filed in District Court, regardless of the amount of money involved.
Small Claim - Small claims are considered a “special proceeding.” This means that the District Court sets aside a certain day or time for small claims cases. District Courts may also set aside a certain location for the small claims docket if there is more than one District Court location in your area. Also, trials are usually set within 60 days of the when the complaint was filed, which is generally quicker than large claims.
Large Claim - The District Court schedules large claim cases to be heard throughout the week during regular court hours.
For more information, contact the court clerk.
A filing fee is a charge imposed by the court when you file a case with the court. Filing fees for small claims cases are generally cheaper. Review the District Court Filing Fee Schedule. Note that you may there are certain filing fee waivers available.
Discovery is legal term that refers to ways in which one side can find out more information about the other side’s case. This might include interrogatories or depositions. Learn more about discovery.
Small Claim - No discovery is allowed in small claims court.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-701(e)
Large Claim - Limited “interrogatories” are allowed in large claims. This means no more than 15 written questions. You may also conduct a deposition if the other side agrees in writing (a stipulation).
Read the Rules: Md. Rule 3-421(b); Rule 3-401(a)
Learn more about preparing your case.
Court Rules of Evidence
Small Claim - Small claims are handled in an informal manner. The formal rules of evidence do not apply. This means that non-attorneys will have an easier time in preparing and presenting small claims actions for trial.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-701(f)
Large Claim - You must follow the formal rules of evidence found in the Maryland Rules. It is important that you read and understand these rules so that all of the testimony, documents, or other materials you need to prove your case are admitted as evidence during the trial.
Read the Rules: Md. Rules, Title 5
Learn more about presenting your case.
Small Claim - If you lose in the District Court, and you have no agreement with the winning side about the record, your appeal to the Circuit Court is de novo, which means you must present your case all over again to the Circuit Court.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-102(a)
Large Claim - Appeals of large claims cases from the District Court to the Circuit Court are on the record appeals, which means no new evidence may
be added to the case on appeal.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-102(b)