Option #2 - Raise Technical (Procedural) Issues

Raising a procedural issue may delay the hearing but, it is rarely a winning strategy.

Improper Notice - Read about service in Small Claims Court [5] (“Service Of Your Suit” Section pages 9-11).

  • The plaintiff must make every effort to notify you about the lawsuit by making sure that you receive a copy of the Complaint and Summons and other papers filed with the court.
  • Were you served properly? For example, if the notice was left with someone else in your apartment building, that would be improper.
  • If you were not served properly, you should contact the court [6] and tell the clerk about the problem. You can ask for the case to be dismissed. If the clerk does not allow this, you can show up in person and make the request. But it is likely that the plaintiff will have you served again.
  • You can ask to have the hearing postponed to allow you time to prepare.

Wrong Court – Usually the clerks will screen out cases that should have been filed in Circuit Court rather than District Court, but something may have happened that leads you to believe that Circuit Court is the correct place for the case to be heard. You can request that the case be transferred to Circuit Court. In addition, there are some cases that can be heard in either the Circuit Court or the District Court (called “concurrent jurisdiction”).

No Jurisdiction - If you do not live in Maryland or have a business here, it may not be appropriate to have a small claims case filed in Maryland. There are exceptions to this, such as:

  • If you were served in Maryland and the dispute occurred here OR
  • You had a car accident here OR
  • The case involves real estate that you own here.

You Want to Make a Demand for Proof - Maryland Court Rules say that you have the right to demand proof that the other side has done certain things correctly. 

  • For example, if the plaintiff sued you in your name and should have sued your business, you can make a “demand for proof.”
  • You must raise this type of issue before the trial is held. Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 3-308 [7]
  • This tactic is most likely helpful only to delay the trial, not to make the case disappear. You need to make clear to the court why this option would benefit you. Do not raise it only to annoy the other side.
  • This is a type of procedural challenge that you should not raise without talking to an attorney [8]. 

Wrong Venue -  If the plaintiff filed in Dorchester County but you live and have a business in Talbot County where the dispute arose, the lawsuit may have been filed at the wrong court location. 

  • If a suit is brought in the wrong county, it can be transferred or dismissed.
  • Cases will be transferred for the convenience of the parties or “in the interests of justice”.
  • However, if you both appear for the hearing, the case can be heard, even if the county is not the correct one.
  •  Maryland Rule 3-326 allows for Dismissal or Transfer of Action.  Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 3-326 [9]
A special project of the Eastern Shore Regional Library under a Library Services Technology Act grant from the Division of Library Development Services/MD State Department of Education (author: Ayn H. Crawley). Edits by Regina Strait, Esq.

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