File a Civil Case
What are the Filing Fees for a Civil Suit?
Please see the fee schedule for the fees to file a lawsuit or any subsequent documents.
What are a Civil Case Cover Sheet, Summons, and Complaint?
- A general civil lawsuit begins when a plaintiff files 3 forms.
- A Civil Case Cover Sheet (CM-010) has basic information about the case such as the type of case, names of the parties, and the relief sought by a plaintiff. Every case must have a cover sheet.
- A Summons (SUM-100) is a notice that says there is a lawsuit.
- A Complaint (PLD-C-001 or PLD-PI-001) is a form that shows how the person was hurt, who hurt them, and how much the damages are.
Where can I File my Lawsuit?
The Court has to have "jurisdiction" over the defendant to be able to have the right to hear the case and make a decision. In general, you have to file your lawsuit where the incident happened or where the contract was supposed to happen, or where the defendant lives.
Limited Jurisdiction cases are classified by two different amount of damages being asked for. The two classifications are cases worth less than $10,000 and $10,000 - $25,000. The Unlimited Jurisdiction cases are for cases worth $25,000 or more. Unlimited cases are automatically set for a Case Management Conference.
Fees and Fee Waiver
Please see the "Court Fee Schedule."
If you qualify for a fee waiver you may ask the court to waive the fees:
- Instructions on FW-001
- FW-001 Request to Waive Court Fees
- Instructions on FW-003
- FW-003 Order of Court Fee Waiver
What is Proof of Service?
There are three ways to "serve" the other party,
- Personal service: Personal service means that someone gives the Summons and Complaint to the defendant.
- Service by mail: This means that someone mails the Summons and Complaint to the defendant. And,
- Service by publication: This means that you publish the Summons and Complaint in the newspaper that the defendant's most likely to read. You have to ask the Court's permission to do this. This is normally done in pleading paper as a form is not provided. Usually you have to try personal service a few times first.
After you serve the papers, you have to file a Proof of Service. This shows the Court that you served the forms
What is a Default Judgment?
In general, the defendant has 30 days to answer. If the plaintiff has the defendant served and they don't answer at all in 30 days, the plaintiff can request an entry of default. If the defendant doesn't file a response 30 days after being served, the Plaintiff can file a form called "Request for Default". The Plaintiff has to wait 30 days to file this. If the Plaintiff files this form, the Court can enter a judgment against the defendant(s). The Plaintiff will win the case. Then, the Plaintiff can enforce the judgment against the defendant(s). This can mean getting money from defendant by garnishing their paycheck or putting a lien on their house or car. A judgment against you can also show up on your credit report. This can make it hard to get a credit card or a loan. You have to follow some steps and fill out forms to do this. See CCP 585 to learn the rules for default. You can get a default in most cases, like a case that asks for money damages.
The defendant can answer service in a way that will stop you from getting a default. The defendant can file:
- An answer (PLD-C-010, or PLD-PI-003)
- A general denial (PLD-050), or
- A demurrer, or
- Different kinds of motions, like a motion to transfer or motion to quash, etc. that are to be done on pleading paper, a fillable version of the pleading paper.
The plaintiff can ask for a default by filing the Request to Enter Default (Form# CIV-100) if you would like to enter a default judgment there are three options:
You must submit a complete judgment packet including the Request for Entry of Default, if applicable, Request for Dismissal(CIV-110) for any party that is not addressed in the judgment and the appropriate declarations that pertain to your particular case.
You can fill out your Request for Default Judgment on the same form as the Request for Entry of Default, Request for Dismissal for any party that is not addressed in the judgment and the appropriate declarations that pertain to your particular case. The assigned judge will look over your packet, and if everything has been done, will enter judgment. The judgment can be for as much as you're asking for, but never more than that. That's why it's important to make a list of all the damages you're asking for in the complaint or the statement of damages. The Court won't give you damages if you don't ask for them on your forms.
Court Judgment by Prove-Up Hearing:
If you want to schedule a hearing for a court default judgment to be heard in front of the assigned judge, please contact the judge's department to set up a prove-up hearing.
For a Civil Lawsuit, the following forms are required:
- Civil Case Cover Sheet, CM-010
- Summons, SUM-100
- Attachment to Summons, SUM-200(A) (optional)
- Chose ONE of the following complaints: