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D.C. Increases Amount in Controversy Limit for Small Claims Court


The jurisdictional limit of D.C.’s Small Claims Court has increased from $5,000 to $10,000. 

On December 14, 2016, the President of the United States signed into law the “District of Columbia Judicial Financial Transparency Act.”  Before then, D.C.’s Small Claims Court only had jurisdiction over cases where the amount in controversy was $5,000 or less.  Now, D.C.’s Small Claims Court has jurisdiction over cases where the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less.  D.C.’s Small Claims Court has exclusive jurisdiction over those cases, meaning that those cases cannot be filed in D.C.’s jury trial level court, which is known as the D.C. Superior Court’s Civil Actions Branch. 

The D.C. Superior Court’s Public Notice announcing the change can be found here:

http://dccourts.gov/internet/documents/Public-Notice-Small-Claims_Jurisdiction-Increase.pdf

With this increase to $10,000, D.C. moves closer to the jurisdictional limits for Maryland’s District Court of $30,000, and Virginia’s General District Court of $25,000. 

The increase in the jurisdictional limit of D.C.’s Small Claims Court likely will result in more lawsuits.  Before the change, it may not have been economically feasible or worthwhile for claimants to pursue a lawsuit in D.C.’s jury trial level court for less than $10,000 because litigants there are subject to a plethora of discovery mechanisms and experience a longer time to resolution.  The increased jurisdictional limit makes pursuing low value claims more economically feasible and worthwhile because there is no discovery in D.C.’s Small Claims Court, and cases usually are resolved within months of filing.

Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, LLP maintains an office in D.C. with two resident attorneys, and has six attorneys licensed to practice in D.C. in both general liability and workers’ compensation.

Questions about this issue can be directed to Ben Peoples, at (202) 904-2362 or cpeoples@tthlaw.com.