A guide for PA DIY investigations

Before filing a lawsuit, I do an investigation of the potential defendant. I want to know as much information as possible regarding if the potential defendant has been sued before, has any outstanding judgments, has any criminal history, and has assets to satisfy any judgment. I often find myself telling clients, after a dispute has arisen, that this should be done before entering into an any agreement with another party.

Most people do not know the extent to which an investigation of another person or entity can be done online for free. Below are links that I use when investigating individuals and business entities. This information is current as of August 15, 2017, but will probably become outdated quickly. Any search should be done using individual names along with business entity names.


Civil claims under $12,000 can be filed in common pleas court or small claims court. The small claims courts are called Magisterial District Courts in the counties outside of Philadelphia and Municipal Court in Philadelphia. Often suits against contractors or contractual disputes among individuals are brought in small claims court. A search of small claims court dockets will tell you the number of times a person or entity has sued or been sued in small claims court, the outcomes of the cases, and the parties involved. Magisterial District Court dockets can be searched here. Philadelphia Municipal Court civil dockets can be searched here.

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