Lawsuits filed in the General Division of the District Court involve claims up to $25,000.00. It begins when the Plaintiff files the Summons and Complaint. The Summons and Complaint includes a caption that identifies the parties, the list of facts that give rise to the Plaintiff's claims, and a request for relief (that is, an award of money). District Courts may only award money to compensate for damages, except in landlord/tenant and land contract matters where evictions may be ordered.
Before filing the Summons and Complaint, you must also decide whether you want the case set for trial before the Judge or a trial before a jury. If you select a jury trial, a jury demand fee of $50.00 must be paid in addition to your filing fee. The filing fee is based upon the amount of your complaint which cannot exceed $25,000.0:
- $000.00 - $600.00 additional fee of $25.00
- $600.01 - $1,750.00 additional fee of $45.00
- $1,750.01 - $10,000.00 additional fee of $65.00; and,
- $10,000.01 - $25,000.00 additional fee of $150.00
- Motion fees = $20.00
Your filing fee may be paid with cash, money order or personal check.
Once the case is filed, the Plaintiff must have the Defendant (the party being sued), served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint. Service can be accomplished by using a process server or by certified, restricted delivery mail. If you do not know a process server, the Court has a list of process servers.
Service of the Defendant with the Summons and Complaint puts the Defendant on notice of the lawsuit. The Defendant must file an answer with the Court within 21 days from the date of being served with the Complaint (28 days if the Defendant was served through the mail). Answer forms can be purchased at the Court for $1.00.
Once the answer is filed with the Court, the Court Clerk will then set the matter for a pretrial conference with the Judge. A pretrial is a court appearance before the Judge where the Judge will briefly discuss the relevant issues in the case and see if a settlement can be reached, the Judge wills et a specific time for discovery (procedures used to ascertain facts) and set a trial date.
At a trial, both parties are given ample opportunities to present their case. Either Plaintiff or Defendant may subpoena witnesses to testify on thier behalf. Upon the conclusion of the trial, the Judge will render a decision (or a jury if a jury trial was conducted). Either party has the right to appeal the decision to Circuit Court.
Numerous court rules apply to pleadings, discovery, trial, and appeal. Failure to follow these rules could be fatal to your case. Therefore, it is recommended that YOU PROCEED WITH AN ATTORNEY.
If you require special accommodations to use the court because of disabilities, please contact the court immediately to make arrangements.
THIS INFORMATION ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN ONLY THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GENERAL CIVIL DIVISION OF THE COURT. IT IS NOT A COMPLETE STATEMENT OF THE LAW. CLERKS OF THE COURT WILL BE HAPPY TO ASSIST YOU IN THE PROCESSING OF YOUR CLAIM, BUT THEY ARE NOT ATTORNEYS AND CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS, YOU MAY WISH TO CONSULT AN ATTORNEY, OR HAVE AN ATTORNEY REPRESENT YOU.