CHANGES COMING ON JANUARY 1, 2020
With respect to claims for money damages, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) agreed by way of a July 17, 2019 Order to implement a change (increase) in the amount-in-controversy requirement for civil cases in Massachusetts, which has not been changed in Massachusetts since 1986. For Superior Court actions, General Laws c. 212, § 3, as amended by St. 2004, c. 252, § 2, has provided in pertinent part: “Except as otherwise provided by law, the court shall have original jurisdiction of civil actions for money damages. The actions may proceed in the court only if there is no reasonable likelihood that recovery by the plaintiff will be less than or equal to $25,000, or an amount ordered from time to time by the supreme judicial court. Where multiple damages are allowed by law, the amount of single damages claimed shall control.”
As a result of the impending change, as of January 1, 2020 the Superior Courts of Massachusetts now will only accept case with damages likely to be over $50,000. The maximum procedural amount for civil actions in the District Courts and Boston Municipal Court will correspondingly increase to $50,000.
Note that with respect to claims seeking equitable remedies, General Laws c. 214, § 1, grants the Superior Court “original and concurrent jurisdiction (with the SJC) of all cases and matters of equity cognizable under the general principles of equity jurisprudence”. This remains unchanged.
If you are contemplating bringing a lawsuit that seeks money damages in the Superior Court, and the amount in controversy does not exceed $50,000, this may be a good time to confer with an attorney to determine whether you should file suit sooner rather than later.
The short-term effect of this Order is likely to dramatically increase the number of civil cases that are heard in the District Court Department. It remains to be seen how the District Court Department will administratively handle such an influx of new cases, given that the jurisdictional limit for cases involving claims seeking money damages is about to double.