I was scanning my Google Analytics today when I noticed that someone found my website based on a search looking for “Preliminary Hearings in Civil Cases.” The inquiry struck me as odd because there is on such thing. There are Pre-Trial Conferences under PA Rule of Civil Procedure 212.3, but something tells me that this person was not getting ready to go to trial. So, I thought I would clear up this issue in the even someone else finds themselves here wondering the same thing.
In Pennsylvania, the closest thing to a preliminary hearing would be a hearing in front of a District Magistrate or District Judge. This judge is a low level judge below the trials courts designated to hearing small civil claims below $8000.00 and other specific actions like Landlord/Tenant cases. The procedure would go something like this:
If you sue someone for a breach of contract for less than $8000.00, your claim has to start at the local District Magistrate. For our purposes, you would need to find the office closest to where the person you are suing lives. Once you file a claim and serve the Complaint, a hearing date will be set. On that hearing date, you will have an opportunity to convince the Magistrate that your contract was breached and ask the Magistrate to award you damages. If you succeed, your opponent will have at least 10 days, maybe more, to appeal the decision. If your opponent appeals, the claim will go up to an Arbitration Court. This is a panel of three attorneys who will hear your case and decide again whether you proved a breach of contract. If you win again, your opponent will have so many days to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas, or the trial court, and so on . . .
I wanted to clarify because educating the public on the proper terminology will help the public communicate with attorneys to better facilitate representation and ultimately save money.
Credit to the Allegheny County Bar Association for the front page graphic that matched this article so well.