Outline of a lawsuit – Part 9 – What is a “Summons and Complaint”?

A Summons is the legal document that provides notice to the defendant that he or she is being sued by the plaintiff.  It is required to serve (or deliver) a Summons to the defendant in order to commence a lawsuit.  Although it is uncommon, a plaintiff may serve a Summons only (and at a later time, serve the “Complaint.”)

The Summons contains a “caption” which states who the parties are: the Plaintiff (the party who is suing) is named and the Defendant (the party being sued) is also named.  The county in which the lawsuit is filed is also in the caption.  Additionally, the “index number” is the reference number given by the clerk of the court to the lawsuit.

The Complaint also contains a caption.  It provides the name of the parties, the counties of their residence, and allegations which explain the grounds for the lawsuit.  Within the paragraphs which describe the parties’ residence, there are paragraphs which discuss the facts of the case: When the accident took place, where it took place, and how it took place.   The Complaint also asks to be compensated for the defendant’s negligence which caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

For example, the Complaint will describe the persons who were operating motor vehicles, the date of the accident, where the accident took place, and that the plaintiff suffered “serious injuries.”

Once prepared, the client needs to review the Complaint and confirm of “verify” that the facts in it are true and accurate.  The client then completes a “verification” and the Complaint becomes a “Verified Complaint.” A complaint can be verified as “true” by an attorney if the client lives outside the county where the attorney maintains an office.

Once fully prepared, the attorney needs to purchase an index number from the Clerk of the Court, then the Complaint is “served” (delivered) to the defendant by a “process server,” a person (usually with a license to do so) will serve the papers on the defendant (either in person or by affixing (taping) the Summons and Complaint to the door of the defendant and then mailing him a copy by certified mail, return receipt requested.

In the next blog I will explain what is done by the defendant in response to the Summons and Complaint.

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