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Starting a Case


In General
Where to Sue
Issuance of the Summons
Serving the Summons
Affidavit of Service
Court Date


In General

Cases may be filed by an individual in person or by attorneys on their behalf. The procedure differs depending on whether an attorney is involved. The procedure discussed in this section is for people representing themselves (no attorney). All corporations and voluntary associations must be represented by an attorney.

In general, the person suing is the plaintiff. More than one person may join in the suit as co-plaintiffs. The person being sued is called the defendant. You may sue more than one person in a single summons, but the causes of action must be related. The jurisdictional limit for each cause of action in the Civil Court is $25,000.00.

The court issues the summons and complaint upon payment of the fee. The summons must then be served on each defendant. Affidavits of service must be filled out and notarized for each defendant. The Affidavits of Service, along with the Summons and Complaint must be filed with the Court. If the defendant files an answer, you will receive a court date in the mail. The procedures for obtaining, serving and filing a summons are set forth below.

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Where to Sue: Venue

A plaintiff must begin an action in the proper county. In general, a plaintiff can sue in the county where either party resides. If no party resides within the City, the action can be brought in the county where either party has employment or transacts business, provided that the defendant has some connection to the City. If no party has residence, employment, or transacts business within the City, the action must be filed in the county where the cause of action arose.

If the defendant is the city of New York, the claim must be filed in New York county or in the county where the cause of action arose. If the defendant is the Transit Authority, the claim must be filed in the county where the cause of action arose.

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Issuance of the Summons

A self-represented litigant may come to the Civil Court and obtain an Application for a Pro Se Summons form or you may use your own summons form. You may also download the Summons Application form now. You must fill out the Application for a Pro Se Summons form and submit it to the clerk in the county where you are suing, along with payment of the court fee. The fee must be paid by cash, certified check, money order or bank check. Personal checks will not be accepted. You may refer to Court Fees to find out the cost of the fee, and refer to Locations to find out where to go to obtain a summons in your county. The clerk will then issue the summons and complaint and assign an index number. You must then have the summons and complaint served on the other side by following the procedure below.

If you are an out-of -state plaintiff or you are disabled and your disability makes it difficult for you to come to court in person, you may obtain a summons and complaint by mail. Go to Summons by Mail for more information.

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Serving the Summons

After obtaining the summons and complaint from the clerk, the litigant must then have the summons and complaint served on the other side.

1. After the COPY of the summons has been served, the person who served it shall fill out an Affidavit of Service. You may download the Affidavit of Service form now, or you may obtain a form from the Court Clerk.

2. Anyone over the age of 18 years, and NOT A PARTY to the action may serve the summons.

3. If you wish, you may hire a Process Server to serve the summons and complaint. See the yellow pages of the phone book to locate one.

4. A COPY of the summons shall be served on the defendant Personally or by Substituted delivery. If neither of those methods can be achieved after diligent effort, the summons may be served by Conspicuous Place delivery:

a. Personal delivery: A copy of the summons and complaint may be served by giving it to the defendant in his or her hand.

b. Substituted delivery: A copy of the summons and complaint may be left with a person other than the defendant “of suitable age and discretion” at the defendant’s residence or place of business. A copy of the summons and complaint must be mailed to the defendant in an envelope marked “Personal and Confidential” within 20 days of the service on the substituted person. The envelope may not indicate that it is from an attorney or that it concerns an action against the defendant.

c. Conspicuous Place delivery: If no one can be found to receive the summons and complaint by personal or substituted delivery after a diligent effort to serve the papers (at least three attempts during working hours and outside of working hours), you may serve the summons by conspicuous place delivery. This is also known as “nail and mail.” This delivery requires that a copy of the summons and complaint be affixed to the door of the actual residence or place of business of the defendant, normally with adhesive tape. A copy of the summons and complaint must be mailed to the defendant in an envelope marked “Personal and Confidential” within 20 days of the affixing of the summons and complaint. The envelope may not indicate that it is from an attorney or that it concerns an action against the defendant.

5. If the defendant is a corporation, the COPY of the summons must be served on an Officer or Managing Agent of that corporation. The person making the service shall find out the name of the person served, and the office he or she holds in the corporation.

6. Service on the defendant may be made on any day EXCEPT SUNDAY.

7. After the summons is served, the person who served the papers must fill out an affidavit of service (see below).

If the defendant does not answer the summons and complaint you will need to mail an additional copy to the defendant before the court will hold a hearing to determine the amount that you are owed. You can serve this notice now or at any time before the entry of a judgment. The copy of the summons and complaint must be mailed to the defendant in an envelope marked “Personal and Confidential.” The envelope may not indicate that it concerns an action against the defendant. You will need to fill out a second affidavit of service for the additional mailing and bring it with you to the inquest.

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Affidavit of Service

1. After the COPY of the summons has been served, the person who served it shall fill out an Affidavit of Service. You may download the Affidavit of Service form now, or you may obtain a form from the Court Clerk. The Affidavit of Service shall include a description of the color of skin, hair color, approximate age, approximate weight and height, and other identifying features of the person served.

2. After the Affidavit of Service has been filled out the server shall sign it before a Notary Public, and have it notarized.

3. The Affidavit of Service filled out, signed and notarized must be returned to the Clerk's Office in the county where the action was brought. Make copies of the summons and complaint and affidavit of service for your records prior to filing them with the court.

4. The defendant normally has twenty (20) days, exclusive of the day he or she is served, to appear in court and file an answer. However, if the summons is served outside the City of New York, or by other than personal, in-hand delivery, the defendant has thirty (30) days to answer from the filing of proof of service. When the summons and complaint were served by substituted or conspicuous service, the defendant's time to answer does not begin to run until the affidavit of service is filed in the court.

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Court Date

If an answer is filed the case will be placed on the court’s Personal Appearance Part calendar for conference and the Court will mail you a date for appearance.

If you do not receive a court date within three weeks of the expiration of the defendant’s time to answer you may request an inquest. But the court will not hold an inquest in cases seeking payment on a debt unless you have first sent the defendant additional notice of the action. You can do this now or at any time before requesting the inquest.

For more information you may refer to Instructions for Plaintiffs Suing in Person. You may also go to Legal and Procedural Information to learn more.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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