How to File a Civil Suit in Oregon

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Legal proceedings usually fall into two main categories, civil and criminal suits. A civil suit is one where one party sues another for redress of a harm suffered. Examples of situations where someone brings a civil suit include breach of contract, defamation, divorce and negligence that causes an accident. In Oregon, the court system is divided into circuit courts, county courts, justice courts and municipal courts. The type of case you have may determine the court that will hear your claim.

Determine what the grounds are for your case against the defendant and the amount of your claim. Find out where the defendant resides or the business address if it is a business. The defendant will have to be served the papers in your suit at one of these two addresses.

Read More: Definition of Civil Court

Determine what court is appropriate for your case. This will depend on the nature of your case and the amount in controversy. As an example, the Oregon justice courts only hear claims that do not exceed $7,500. If the case involves titles to real estate, defamation or malicious prosecution, the case must be brought in circuit court, as the justice court does not have jurisdiction over these cases.

Prepare the summons and a complaint. The summons gives the defendant the most basic notice about the case. It contains the court's name and address, the names of the plaintiff and defendant, a description of the nature of the suit and a deadline for appearing in court. The complaint is your explanation of the facts that give rise to your claim. Use the court's format for both forms. Check the Oregon court's website for forms that apply to your type of case.

Submit the documents to the courthouse and pay the filing fees. Determine the filing fees for your case in advance and bring sufficient funds. Deliver your documents to the clerk's office of the appropriate court. Inform the court representative that you are commencing a suit and request that your documents be accepted for filing.


  • This article does not constitute legal advice. Consult with an attorney who is licensed in Oregon for a thorough understanding of your rights and liabilities in a civil suit.

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