A summons is one of the first steps in a civil lawsuit. The person bringing the lawsuit (the plaintiff) has the responsibility to prepare a summons, which is then issued by the court. This document informs the person who is being sued (the defendant) that a lawsuit has been filed against him. A summons instructs the defendant on how to answer the lawsuit, either by appearing in court in person at a certain date and time, or by responding in writing by a certain date. Many courts have online forms you can use to ensure that the summons is drawn up properly.
Find the applicable rules. The rules about the form and contents of a summons vary somewhat between states. Where you file your lawsuit will determine what information needs to be in your summons. Many courts publish their rules online, and many have a form you can follow to prepare your summons.
Identify the person being sued. You will need the full legal name and address for the person, business or other entity you have named as the defendant in the lawsuit. A separate summons must be delivered to each person or entity you are suing.
Gather information. Every summons includes the following: the names of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s), the case number, the place where the lawsuit has been filed, the name and address of the plaintiff's lawyer or the plaintiff, and the date by which the defendant has to respond to the lawsuit. Additional information may be required based on the rules of the court where you have filed suit.
Fill out the form. Most courts have a preferred format for the summons paperwork. If a form is not available on the court's website, contact the clerk's office for a form or example.
Get the summons "issued." A summons is not valid until the clerk of the court where you have filed your lawsuit signs it. Bring your completed summons to the clerk's office at the courthouse where you have filed your lawsuit. If the summons is properly prepared, the clerk will sign it, and then it is ready to serve on the defendant with a copy of the complaint.
- Failing to get a summons prepared, issued and served on the defendant in a timely manner may result in your case being dismissed.
- Consulting with a lawyer in your jurisdiction is the best way to ensure you are complying with the law.
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