SB32 (2008) Detail

Increasing the maximum amount of debt or damages for small claims actions.


SB 32-FN – AS AMENDED BY THE HOUSE

30Jan2008… 2007-2501h

2007 SESSION

07-0762

09/01

SENATE BILL 32-FN

AN ACT increasing the maximum amount of debt or damages for small claims actions and requiring mediation for small claims actions exceeding $5,000 and establishing a fee for the cost of such mediation.

SPONSORS: Sen. Foster, Dist 13; Rep. Dokmo, Hills 6

COMMITTEE: Judiciary

AMENDED ANALYSIS

This bill increases the maximum amount of debt or damages for small claims actions. The bill also requires mediation for small claims actions exceeding $5,000 and establishes a fee for the cost of such mediation.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

30Jan2008… 2007-2501h

07-0762

09/01

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Seven

AN ACT increasing the maximum amount of debt or damages for small claims actions and requiring mediation for small claims actions exceeding $5,000 and establishing a fee for the cost of such mediation.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Small Claims Actions; Maximum Amount of Debt or Damages. Amend RSA 503:1, I to read as follows:

I. A small claim is any right of action not involving the title to real estate in which the debt or damages, exclusive of interest and costs, does not exceed [$5,000] $10,000.

2 New Paragraph; Mediation Required. Amend RSA 503:1 by inserting after paragraph III the following new paragraph:

IV. When the amount of debt or damages exceeds $5,000 and no claim is made for trial by jury under paragraph III, the parties to the action shall be required to participate in a mediation program in the district courts approved by the office of mediation and arbitration established under RSA 490-E. If mediation of such action does not result in resolution of the action, the case shall be presented to the judge under oath.

3 Small Claims Exceeding $5,000; Mediation Fee. RSA 503:4, II is repealed and reenacted to read as follows:

II. The sum of $5 shall be added to each entry fee collected in the district courts for small claims actions in which the amount of debt or damages is $5000 or less and the sum of $60 shall be added to each entry fee collected in the district courts for small claims actions in which the amount of debt or damages exceeds $5000. Such sums shall be deposited in the mediation and arbitration fund established under RSA 490-E:4.

4 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 2009.

LBAO

07-0762

1/18/07

SB 32-FN - FISCAL NOTE

AN ACT increasing the maximum amount of debt or damages for small claims actions.

FISCAL IMPACT:

The Judicial Branch states this bill will have an indeterminable fiscal impact on state expenditures in FY 2008 and each year thereafter. This bill will have no fiscal impact on state, county, and local revenue, or county and local expenditures.

METHODOLOGY:

The Judicial Branch states the proposed bill would increase the maximum amount of damages that could be claimed in a small claims action from $5,000 to $10,000. It was a recommendation of the New Hampshire Citizens Commission on the State Courts. The small claims jurisdictional maximum has been at $5,000 since January 1, 1999, when it was raised to that amount from $2,500. The volume of small claims filed in the district courts actually diminished in 1999, the first year with the $5,000 jurisdictional maximum, from 16,623 small claims cases filed in 1998 to 16,422 in 1999. In fact, based on historical data, small claims volume did not

seem to be affected by whether the jurisdictional maximum was $2,500 or $5,000. Of the ten

calendar years from 1995 through 2004, in four the jurisdictional maximum was $2,500 and in

six it was $5,000. Over that period the average for the four $2,500 years, 17,421 cases, is actually greater than the average of the six $5,000 years, 16,979 cases. There were 16,354 cases filed in FY 2006. The Branch does not have any information on which to base a conclusion whether this historic pattern would be seen again in a doubling of the jurisdictional maximum from $5,000 to $10,000. If the historic trend does not hold and the number of small claims goes up and the number of civil writs goes down as a result of doubling the small claims jurisdictional maximum, there will be a fiscal impact to the judicial branch. The Branch states the additional cost to process a civil writ in the district court as opposed to a small claims action is $22.61. Using these numbers, the judicial branch would save $22,610 per 1,000 small claims actions that previously would have been filed as civil writs but are filed as small claims. Another possibility is that the increase in the jurisdictional amount of small claims from $5,000 to $10,000 will bring new cases into the system. More specifically claims between $5,000 and $10,000 that were not previously filed that will now be filed in accordance with the more simplified procedure of small claims. If that occurs, there will be an increased cost to the

judicial branch. The average cost, both judicial and clerical based on current salary levels, to process a single small claims action is $52.83. Using these numbers, to the extent the proposed bill results in an increase in the number of small claims actions without a decrease in the number of civil writ filings in the district court, the cost to the judicial branch will be $52,830 per 1,000 extra small claims actions.

Links

SB32 at GenCourtMobile

Action Dates

Date Body Type

Bill Text Revisions

SB32 Revision: 12124 Date: Jan. 1, 2008, midnight

Docket