How to File a Civil Action Suit in New Jersey

By Stephan Sawyer
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Filing a civil action suit in New Jersey is a fairly straightforward process that requires several steps and the payment of some small to moderate fees. Civil action suits filed in New Jersey state courts must have some connection to the state for jurisdiction to be applicable; you must be suing a party which has contact with, or business in, the state of New Jersey. Lawsuits filed which involve federal laws, or against agencies of the federal government are generally dealt with in the federal U.S. District Court for New Jersey. Small claims suits have an upper financial limit of $15,000. Amounts larger than that are filed in the Law Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.

Choose the proper jurisdiction in which to file your claim. Any case which involves a matter that occurred in New Jersey itself generally falls under the jurisdiction of New Jersey courts. However, you should also file your case with the clerk of the Special Civil Part of New Jersey Courts in the county in which your complaint happened.

Pick up a Small Claims complaint form from the appropriate civil court clerks office. This form must then be correctly filled out and filed either in person or by mail. You will have to include the name, address and legal status of the defendant(s); whether they are an individual, sole proprietorship, corporation or partnership. You will also have to name the amount of money for which you are suing and your reasons for doing so. Make sure that you fill out all the information correctly

Mail or present your filled out and signed form to the office of the Clerk of the Special Civil Part for your county. This is also when you would pay your court fees, whether filing in person or by mail. The fee for filing in small claims court is $15 . Generally speaking, a summons and complaint will then be served to the defendant against whom you are filing your suit. This is usually done by a sheriff's deputy of the County Sheriff's office where the defendant resides, but under rare circumstances, you may be told to do it yourself.

Prepare for the trial by hiring a lawyer if you won't be representing yourself. If you will plead your own case, this is where you would prepare your arguments and gather together any documents, such as photographs, contracts and canceled checks you will need. You must also make arrangements for trial appearances with any witnesses whose testimony you need. Written statements, even if signed under oath, aren't valid in New Jersey, the witnesses have to show up at your trial in person.

File a civil suit for damages in excess of $15,000 by a process similar to that of small claims, with only two minor differences. First, the complaint forms are picked up from and mailed to the Office of the Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Civil Part. Second, in addition to a complaint form, plaintiffs must also fill out and mail in (with the complaint form) what is known as a Civil Case Information Statement. This is a form in which your personal details and certain specific information about the case are filled out. This form, along with your complaint form and a filing fee of $200 payable to the Treasurer of the State of New Jersey are all mailed to the Superior Court Law Division, Civil Part offices in your county. The rest of the process is the same as for small claims.