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General Laws

[Text of section applicable as provided by 2004, 252, Sec. 23.]

Section 3A. (a) A clerk-magistrate in the superior court shall not accept for filing a complaint or other pleading which commences a civil action for money damages, except as otherwise provided by law, unless it is accompanied by a statement signed by the attorney or pro se party. The statement shall specify the facts on which the plaintiff then relies to determine money damages. The defendant may file with his answer a statement specifying the potential damages which may result if the plaintiff prevails.

(b) If it appears to the court, from the statement of damages by the plaintiff that there is no reasonable likelihood that the estimated damages will be consistent with the civil money damage limits of the court, as set forth in section 3, the judge, after receiving written responses from the parties and after a hearing, if requested by any party, may dismiss the case without prejudice for failure to comply with the requirements of said section 3 regarding the amount necessary for proceeding in the superior court. The filing fee in the dismissed actions shall be retained by the court; but the recommencement of the same action in the district court or Boston municipal court departments of the trial court shall not require the payment of a filing fee. If a civil action is dismissed in the district court or Boston municipal court departments pursuant to section 19A of chapter 218, and the action is recommenced in the superior court, the filing fee shall be reduced by the amount of the filing fee previously paid to attempt to commence the same action in the district court or Boston municipal court. The procedure provided herein for dismissal of an action for violation of the requirements regarding the amount necessary to proceed in the superior court under section 3 shall be the exclusive method by which the dismissal may be ordered. Violation of the requirements for proceeding in the superior court shall not deprive the court of jurisdiction and shall not be grounds for any post-judgment relief in any case.

(c) In any case where the superior court dismisses the case as provided in this section, the plaintiff may take an appeal as hereinafter provided. The appeal shall be to a single justice of the appeals court at the next sitting thereof. Upon being notified of the dismissal, the plaintiff shall have 7 days thereafter to file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the dismissing court. Upon receipt of notice of appeal timely filed, the clerk shall forthwith notify the judge who approved the dismissal. Within 3 days of receipt of the notice, the judge who approved the dismissal shall set forth written findings and reasons justifying the dismissal, which findings and rulings shall be part of the record on appeal. The clerk shall forward the pleading which commenced the civil action, all statements by the parties, specifying in detail the potential damages if the plaintiff prevails, the judge’s written findings and reasons justifying the dismissal and any other documents on file relevant to the appeal to the clerk of the appeals court. Upon receipt thereof, the clerk of the appeals court shall set the matter down for a speedy hearing and send notice to the parties. The court dismissing the case may, with or without motion, issue an order or process to preserve the rights of the parties pending the appeal. The single justice of the appeals court may enter or revoke that order or process. The decision of the single justice of the appeals court as to the dismissal shall be final.

(d) Notwithstanding chapter 260 or any other applicable statutes of limitation, in a civil action under this section in which a plaintiff’s case has been dismissed as provided in this section, the plaintiff shall be given 30 days after the date of receipt of the notice of dismissal or, in the case of an appeal from the dismissal, 30 days after the date of receipt of the notice of the decision of the single justice of the appeals court to file the case in the appropriate court; if, the commencement of the dismissed case was within the applicable statute of limitations. The 30-day time limit in this section for recommencement of an action following dismissal of the action shall apply only when the time permitted under the applicable statute of limitations would have expired at any time from the original commencement of the action to the end of the 30-day period.

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