Small claims law evolved to provide a speedy and simple court procedure for claims involving damages small enough not to be worth the expense of an attorney. In Maine, the District Court holds small claims proceedings and damages are limited to $6,000. There is no jury and there are no formal rules of evidence although there are specific procedures that need to be followed before a claim can be filed.
Print a copy of the Maine small claims court Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the District Court or contact an Administrative Office of the Courts at 207-822-0701 to request a copy be mailed to you. Read the booklet.
Complete the Small Claims Statement of Claim, available at any District Court location or download the form from the Maine Judicial Branch Forms & Publications website. Provide the exact name and address of the person or company you are suing. If the defendant is a company, you can contact the Secretary of State, Bureau of Corporations at 207-624-7752 to inquire if the company is a partnership or incorporated. If a corporation, you need the corporate name and the name and address of the corporation’s clerk. Otherwise, you file against the business owner, entering “doing business as” and the name of the company.
Prepare a short statement about the claim, what the dispute is about and when it occurred. Include all applicable dates. Prepare another statement specifying the action you want from the defendant, such as financial compensation. Make two copies of any documentation such as bills, receipts or contracts and two copies of your statements, one copy to keep for your records and one copy to give to the defendant.
Notify the defendant using first class mail. Include a copy of your statement and any attachments, along with two Notice of Service/Acknowledgment forms available at the court clerk’s office or from the Forms and Publication website. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the defendant to use in returning a signed Acknowledgment form. Allow 20 days for the return receipt of your envelope.
Use certified mail to notify the defendant if you do not want to use first class mail or you have not received your return envelope. Send using Restricted Delivery with return receipt requested. If the postal service is able to deliver it, the defendant will have to sign and the green postcard will be mailed to you, documenting that the defendant received the notification. If unable to deliver, the postal service will keep the paperwork for approximately three weeks and will then return it to you.
Use the sheriff’s office to serve the papers as your first option or if first class mail and certified mail have not worked. Make a copy of the front and back of your claim form. Write Return of Service on the back. Make two copies so you can give the sheriff’s office your original plus a copy. If successful, the sheriff’s office will return the original to you with the completed Return of Service information on the back. Give the original paperwork to the court clerk. The sheriff’s office will charge a fee for this service which varies by county.
Read the booklet again, as advised by the Maine small claims court website. Highlight parts that relate to you and review the documents and other items you have prepared to make sure you followed all of the instructions correctly.
Send original copies of the Statement of Claim, documentation and evidence that the defendant was served to the District Court within 20 days of the service being completed. Check to see what Maine's current filing fee is and include a check for that amount, payable to Maine District Court.
Notify the clerk’s office, in writing, if there is a change of address. If you do not, you may not receive any of the court notices, including the one for the trial date. Failure to appear could result in losing your case.