Table of Contents:
- How to File a Civil Suit in Arizona
- How to File a Civil Suit in Oregon
- How to File a Civil Suit in California
- How to File a Civil Suit in South Carolina
- How to File a Civil Suit in Missouri
- How to File a Civil Suit in Kentucky
- How to File a Civil Suit in Pennsylvania
- How to File a Civil Suit in Indiana
- How Do I File a Civil Lawsuit in Connecticut?
- How to File a Civil Lawsuit in Ohio
- How to File a Civil Court Lawsuit in Colorado
- How to File a Civil Lawsuit in Illinois
Visit the TurboCourt website (see Resources). This site is used by the state of Arizona to electronically file civil suit paperwork.
Click the "General Civil" because you are filing a civil suit. The state of Arizona will appear with a blue link next to it that says, "Next."
Click the blue link next to "Arizona." Click on the blue link next to "Civil Lawsuits."
Choose your county and city from the drop down menus on the page. Then click "Next."
Register with TurboCourt on this page. Then you can file your civil suit with them. Fill in the information requested. They will need to know who you are filing suit against, what the monetary amount of the suit is and the contact information for both yourself and the person you are filing against. Once you submit this information, your suit has been filed.
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.
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.
Filing a civil complaint is the official beginning of a lawsuit in California, but it is also the end product of a lot of preparation. Even an experienced attorney does far more work before filing a lawsuit than you might think. The process is a little like planting seeds for a garden: Sowing the seeds is easy compared with working the soil, removing weeds and digging in compost that must happen first. Doing the prep work for a civil lawsuit is extremely important since the possible consequences of committing errors include having the case tossed out of court.
Getting the Parties Right
Every lawsuit has at least two parties, the plaintiff who brings the suit and the person or entity who is being sued, called the defendant. In California, any person 18 years or older and mentally competent can bring a lawsuit, but you have to be sure that you have standing – you must be directly affected by the action. For example, if you're injured by slipping and falling in a store, you have standing to sue for your injuries. If you simply see someone fall, you don't have standing.
Who Are You Suing?
Determining whom to sue is the next step. Sometimes this is easy, but it can get complex quickly. In the slip-and-fall example, you probably don't want to sue only the store manager who is likely to be just an employee. You'll need to find out who owns the business and whether it's a chain. If it's owned by another business, you'll have to find out who owns that business.
If you're suing a state government agency, you may have to give notice before you sue. This means that you must prepare a claim that fulfills the legal requirements of Government Code section 910, including your name and mailing address, a description of what happened and the identity of the government employees who caused your injury. Look for online forms to use if you are suing the State of California or the City or County of Sacramento. You must generally file your suit within six months of serving that notice.
Naming the incorrect party can be fatal to your case. If you're suing a business, figure out what type of entity it is in order to correctly name the defendants. If the business is a sole proprietorship, sue the owner by his name. If it's a partnership, sue each of the partners by name. If it's a corporation or a limited partnership, sue by the registered corporate or partnership name. All this information is available from the California Secretary of State's office.
Preparing the Documents
Judicial Council forms are available for many types of complaints in California. You can find these online on the California courts website. The caption at the top of the complaint is the place to fill in your name as plaintiff, state whether you have a lawyer or are representing yourself, and identify the defendants. Use the rest of the complaint form to outline your case. Briefly summarize what happened and how you were injured, then date and sign your name at the bottom of the complaint form.
Prepare the summons for the court clerk to stamp. This is a short document with the same caption as the complaint. It advises the defendant as to the date and the place to appear in court to defend the case. You'll also need a cover sheet. Check with your court to see if local rules require additional documents.
Where to Sue
In California, you must decide the level of court to file in – small claims, municipal or superior – and which district to sue in. Both small claims and municipal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction in California so the amount you are seeking in damages determines the court. You can sue in small claims court for $10,000 or less, in municipal court for between $10,000 and $25,000, and in superior court if you are seeking more than $25,000.
California courts have jurisdiction if the event central to your complaint occurred in the state. For example, you can file in a California court if a car accident or other personal injury occurred within the state, when a contract was entered into or breached there, or if real property that is the subject of the lawsuit is located there. Generally, you can file suit in the county where the injury occurred or where the defendant resides. If more than one county is appropriate for your suit, pick the one most convenient to you.
Filing the Papers
After your papers are prepared, make several copies and take them, together with the original documents and a credit card or checkbook, to the court clerk's office during business hours. Pay the filing fee at the appropriate window and hand the entire batch of documents to the clerk. The clerk will enter a case number, file the original documents and stamp the rest of the documents to show that they have been filed with the court. When he returns the copies to you, put them into a file folder so you have one set of documents for your records and one set to serve on the defendant.
Don't hesitate to get legal help if you feel out of your depth along the way.
File your civil suit in a South Carolina small claims court if the dollar limit you're seeking doesn't exceed $7,500. If your case is a landlord-tenant situation, there is no limit to the damages you're seeking. You don't need an attorney to file in small claims court. Go to your local county clerk's office in South Carolina. The clerk will give you a copy of the laws involving small claims court and the necessary paperwork. Fill-out the paperwork, return it to the clerk and pay the filing fee. Wait for an answer from the court. A court date will be set for you and the defendant to go before a magistrate.
File a complaint with the South Carolina office of the American Civil Liberties Union if your civil suit involves a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights (see Resources below). Whether-or-not the ACLU takes your case, you're still advised to contact an attorney on your own.
Find a licensed attorney immediately after the incident has taken place. South Carolina has a statute of limitations, or defined time periods during which you can file a civil suit. These time periods vary, depending on the alleged violation. Libel, slander and defamation cases have two-year limits. Personal injury, fraud, injury to personal property and product liability cases must be filed within three years from the date of the incident. Find an attorney in South Carolina by checking the Lawyer Referral Directory at the American Bar Association website (see Resources below).
Explain your side of the civil suit to your attorney. Present any evidence you have to support your claim. Examples include photographs, receipts, contracts, text messages pertaining to the case and printed e-mails and statements from witnesses. Your attorney may hire expert witnesses.
File a written complaint (through your attorney) at the local courthouse in South Carolina and pay the filing fees. The complaint is a statement telling your side of the incident, the name of the defendant, the reason you should be compensated and the damages you're seeking. Your attorney will determine whether your case would benefit from having a jury or not. However, according to the S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-230, either party, the plaintiff or the defendant, may demand a jury trial.
Download a civil complaint form from the Missouri state court system's website. If you have a complaint against a Missouri resident, business or law and you live in Missouri, you must file your complaint in the county where at least one of the defendants lives. You can file a lawsuit in federal court if the case involves several defendants but only one lives in Missouri.
Complete the form pertaining to your legal situation. The website offers forms regarding appeals, executions, garnishments, judgments and paternity cases.
Pay a filing or service fee if required. Call the local circuit court clerk's office if you have questions about fees and court rule procedures.
Decide which court is appropriate for your lawsuit. If the property or money involved equals $1,500 or less, file with the Small Claims Division. If the amount is more, your case will be most likely be a jury trial.
Make sure your suit falls within Kentucky's statute of limitations. For oral contracts, you have five years to file, 15 years for a written contract and only one year for a personal injury suit.
Go to the circuit court in your county. Talk to the clerk and procure all the necessary paperwork needed to file a civil suit.
Fill out the paperwork, including your personal information and the contact information of the defendant.
File the paperwork with the clerk at the county office to begin the lawsuit. Pay the applicable fee for the paperwork when you file. Once you file the suit, the court will send a summons to the defendant. You can decide if you want the summons sent by certified mail or delivered by the Sheriff's Department, where you pay for the service. The date of the hearing will be listed on the summons.
If you’re seeking damages of $12,000 or less, the courts in Pennsylvania make it relatively simple to file a civil suit without an attorney. All the necessary forms and easy-to-follow instructions are available online. If you are seeking more than $12,000 from the person or organization you’re suing, you’ll need a lawyer and a different court venue to proceed with your case.
The Pennsylvania Court System
The Pennsylvania court system is divided into levels:
- minor courts
- courts of common pleas
- superior court and commonwealth court
- supreme court
Minor courts include magisterial district courts, Philadelphia Municipal Court and Pittsburgh Municipal Court. Residents can file suits for less than $12,000 in either common pleas courts or magisterial district courts. Consider having your case heard in magisterial district court, however, because it’s less expensive, less formal and generally quicker than common pleas courts. You don’t need an attorney in magisterial district court, but you can hire one if you want. Residents of Pittsburgh, however, must proceed through municipal court since that county does not have a magisterial district court.
Before You File Suit
Select which magisterial district judge, or MJD, has jurisdiction in your case. Generally, you must file where the person or company you’re suing, the defendant, is located. You’ll find a listing of MJDs and their jurisdictions on the website of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.
Suits should be filed in a timely manner since most civil claims have a statute of limitations – a point in time when your complaint is no longer valid. For information regarding your specific complaint, you can contact the magisterial district court where you plan to file your suit.
Filing a Complaint
When you decide to sue, file a complaint form to request that your case be heard by the MDJ. The form is easy to complete and available on the MDJ website. The document includes your personal information, such as name and address, as well as the name and address of the business or person you’re suing. Also enter the amount you’re suing for and give a brief, but detailed, explanation of why the defendant owes you money.
You can mail the complaint form to the MDJ office, but it’s generally recommended that you submit it in person so the clerk can check the form for completeness and tell you if there are errors on the form. Filing fees are due when you submit the document. You can find out how much the filing fees are in advance by contacting the MDJ office where the suit will be filed. Check to see which payment methods they accept; some courts require that you pay fees only with cash or a money order.
Once you’ve filed, the clerk will schedule a hearing date before the MDJ, typically 12 to 60 days from the time of filing. You must provide the other party with a copy of the complaint and a notice of the hearing. The clerk can send the paperwork to the defendant by certified mail or you can choose to have it served by the sheriff’s department.
Steps for filing a lawsuit in Pittsburgh County are the same as those required in any other county, except that you file through the Philadelphia County Municipal Court rather than a magisterial district court.
Calculate the claim amount and total damages. A civil complaint for under $6,000 is heard as a small claims case. File a complaint for a claim amount between $6,001 and $10,000 in civil limited. Cases over $10,000 are filed in civil unlimited. Family law and probate cases are filed in family or probate court.
Use the amount of the claim to find the correct court according to the subject matter jurisdiction. The Indiana court system includes four types of civil trial courts, including circuit courts, superior courts, county courts and city/town courts. City and town courts handle ordinance violations. The three other courts generally include small claims and limited and unlimited divisions.
Find the correct court according to the county where the action took place. The court must have personal jurisdiction. A business location or defendant's residence address can generally be used to obtain personal jurisdiction. Use the address and ZIP code of where the contract was signed, the agreement was broken or where the defendant lives.
Complete the required court forms for the type of case. Include the legal name of the other party, the exact address and amount of claim. Submit the form online, by fax, mail or in person. Pay the applicable court filing fees or request a fee waiver.
Serve the complaint and summons on the other party, named in the suit. Service of process requires the summons and complaint to be provided to the other party to notify it of the lawsuit. Service of process can be made by a process server or a person 18 years or older who is not a party to the case. See local court rules.
Provide proof of service to the court prior to the trial date. Keep a copy for your own records and take it to court on the trial date. Present the copy to the court if the defendant claims that he was never served the summons and complaint.
Fill out a writ of summons. Rule 8-1 dictates that all civil lawsuits must include "mesne process" in the form of a writ of summons or attachment. The writ of summons is required to ensure each defendant is on proper notice of the pending lawsuit. The writ must clearly explain that the defendant is being sued and must enter an appearance before the return date, which must also be displayed on the writ. The Connecticut judiciary supplies litigants with a pre-formatted form which, when properly filled out, meets the requirements of Rule 8-1.
Draft a pleading. In addition to the writ of summons, the plaintiff must file an official pleading detailing the aspects and legal arguments the plaintiff is raising. The pleading must set forth the plaintiff's allegations in plain and concise statements. The pleading may not include any misleading or fraudulent allegations or factual contentions.
Personally deliver the writ of summons and complaint to the court clerk's office. Every plaintiff must decide within which court to file a lawsuit. For cases worth an amount under $2,500, the plaintiff must utilize the small claims court. For cases worth $2,500 or more, the plaintiff should file in Superior Court. After handing the summons and complaint to the clerk, she will sign the original and return it to the plaintiff.
If a plaintiff is suing a defendant who is a resident of another state or country, he may file his lawsuit in the federal district court in Connecticut. A lawsuit filed in federal court must be worth in excess of $75,000.
Arrange for service of process. After the clerk has signed the original documents and returned them to the plaintiff, he must pass the documents along to a certified state marshal for delivery of the documents to the defendants. Connecticut law requires proper service of process either upon the defendant himself or to a competent, adult member of his primary dwelling. Once the marshal has served the documents, the defendants are required to fill out a form, supplied by the marshal, attesting that they received the summons and complaint.
Pay required fees to file a lawsuit. A civil cause of $2,500 or more requires a $300 filing fee. A civil cause less than $2,500 requires a $175 fee. For litigants facing difficulty paying court filing fees, an application for waiver of fees is available. Applicants can apply for a waiver of entry fees, filing fees and service of process fees from this form. The form requires applicants to supply detailed income information. Once the form is submitted, a hearing will be held to determine whether the applicant's request is granted.
Attempt to resolve the dispute one last time before filing a civil lawsuit. This is not required but recommended by the state of Ohio. Send a letter by certified mail to the other party, summarizing the basic claims of your case and the money you are owed. If you receive no response or a negative response, proceed with the filing.
Gather necessary documents. Before filing a small claims case in Ohio, you will need at least the name and address of the defendant, a list of possible witnesses, and any supporting evidence.
Visit the municipal court in Ohio. You will choose the county where the defendant lives or where the dispute occurred. There will be a small claims division located inside the courthouse. Ask the clerk for a form to file a small claim.
Complete the form and add as much detail as possible in your filing. Return the form to the clerk in order to file the lawsuit. Pay the fees required when filing the lawsuit. The fees vary throughout Ohio and depend on how much money you are seeking in your lawsuit. Make at least three copies of the forms you filed, and keep one for your records.
Serve the defendant. In Ohio, you can serve the defendant by mail or in person. If the defendant is also an Ohio resident, you can have the clerk send a copy of the suit by certified mail to the other party. There will be a fee if you choose this option. If the other party does not accept the suit by mail, doesn't live in Ohio or is a corporation, the lawsuit must be served in person. Hire a private process server or contact the sheriff's office to have the defendant served.
Draft a demand letter. Colorado law requires that you attempt to settle a claim or complaint in advance of filing a civil court lawsuit. A demand letter is the conclusion of that process.
Include in the demand letter the specific amount of money you will accept to settle the dispute. Clearly state that you will pursue further legal action if you do not receive the requested payment by a specific date.
Obtain a complaint form from the court clerk in the Colorado county where you desire to bring a lawsuit. The complaint is the legal document utilized to start a civil lawsuit in the state of Colorado.
Complete the complaint. Included your name as well as the name and address of the defendant. Recite the specific facts giving rise to your claim against the defendant. Include a general request for an approximate amount of money you desire in the way of a judgment. Colorado law does not require you to list a specific dollar amount. Stating something to the effect of "plaintiff prays for damages in an amount above $50,000" suffices.
File the complaint with the court clerk.
Request the court clerk to direct the sheriff to serve a copy of the complaint on the defendant.
Visit your local clerk of court's office to pick up the necessary forms. This includes a complaint form, civil cover sheet, the appearance form and a summons. The civil cover sheet is available with a form titled JS-44.
Write a draft of your complaint before transferring it to the official form. Use your own words to describe the events leading to the case and your reasons for suing. Use a clear language and lay the facts out along a timetable. Be specific about dates, times and any communication exchanged with the defendant.
Complete the complaint form with your final draft. If you don't have enough room on the form to finish your complaint, attach extra pages and include your telephone number, address and signature on the last page. Attach any evidence, such as photos of damage or a record of email exchanges, to the completed complaint form.
Make copies of your complaint. You will give the court one copy that is submitted to the judge and one copy for each defendant, as well as the original that is filed. Keep two copies for your own files.
Fill out the civil cover sheet and appearance forms. The civil cover sheet is filed with your complaint; it helps the clerk staff prepare your case for the docket. The appearance form names who is acting as attorney in the case. If you are representing yourself, write "pro se" next to your name on the appearance form.
Complete the summons form. This notifies the defendant that she is being sued. Include your own name and address under "plaintiff's attorney" if you are representing yourself.
File your case at the clerk of court's office and pay the filing fees. As of 2011, the fees for Illinois civil cases are over $300. In the event you cannot pay the fees, bring a completed copy of the in forma pauperis petition to the clerk of court when you file your case. This petition asks the court to allow the case to proceed without payment.