If You Are the Plaintiff – How to File Your Claim
To start a lawsuit, you mail or deliver a complaint and a summons to the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court at a county courthouse. The following will explain where to sue, which complaint form to use, how to fill in the proper legal forms, how to file the claim, and how to get the forms to the defendant.
Where to Sue
If you are suing someone who lives in your own county, start the lawsuit there. If you are suing someone in a different county, you must start the lawsuit in that county. This means mailing or taking the forms and fees to the clerk of court in the other county.
Your trial will be held in the county where the defendant lives. The hearing will be held in the magistrate’s court (click here) for listing of Magistrate’s Courts, addresses and directions). If you are suing more than one defendant and they live in different counties, pick a county where one of them lives and sue them all in that county. For instance, if one of the defendants lives in your county but another defendant does not, you can sue both defendants in your county.
Choosing a Complaint Form
Before you file your lawsuit, you must fill out a complaint form. The clerk of court has different complaint forms for different kinds of problems. The three most commonly used forms are: Complaint for Money Owed, Complaint to Recover Possession of Personal Property, and Complaint in Summary Ejectment (used by landlords). The Complaint for Money Owed is described in detail in the next section. These and other forms described in this section can be found at the North Carolina Court Systems website, https://www.nccourts.gov, or by clicking on the form above. If you want to get back some property which is in dispute, you should use the Compliant to Recover Possession of Personal Property. On that form, you as the plaintiff must say if you are a “secured party” or not. A secured party is usually a finance company or other institute of some sort rather than an individual. If you have a written statement that you may repossess property if payments are not made according to an agreed upon schedule, then you are a secured party. Landlords use the Complaint in Summary Ejectment form to collect back rent or evict tenants. This form is fairly complicated to understand both for landlords (the plaintiffs) and the tenants (the defendants). Please remember Employees of the Clerk’s Office are PROHIBITED BY LAW from providing advice or assistance in completing any form. Should you need assistance please consult with an attorney. If none of the standard forms suits your exact situation, you may write your own complaint. Be sure to state what your claim is and include the type of information shown on the one of the above mentioned forms.
How to Fill Out Complaint for Money Owed
- If you are filing the suit, put your correct full name as plaintiff, with your address and telephone number, if any. You must include the name of your county.
- Put the person’s full name being sued as defendant, with the address and telephone number, if any, and the county where the person lives.
- If you are suing a business, you must find out if it is a corporation or not. If the business is a corporation, you list the correct name of the corporation as the defendant. Your complaint and summons must go to the “registered agent” of the corporation, or to an officer, director, or managing agent of the corporation. If the business is not a corporation, you list the owners of the business as the defendants. For more information about businesses as defendants, see the Appendix.
- List the name and address of your attorney, if you have one. If you don’t have an attorney, leave this blank.
- List the county where you are bringing the lawsuit.
- After “Principal Amount Owed,” put the exact amount of money which you claim the defendant owes you. If you are claiming interest on this money, put that amount on the next line. Add the two figures to get the “total Amount Owed”.
- Note the choices of boxes the plaintiff may use. You can check a box and fill in the information on the line next to the box. Or you can check “other” and describe the purpose of your suit.
- Sign and date the complaint. If you have a lawyer, he or she may sign it.
How to Fill Out the Summons and Assignment Card
You must also fill out a “Magistrate Summons”, which is available from the Clerk’s office (AOC-CVM-100 or by clicking link at left). This notice of the lawsuit goes to each defendant. You fill out the top part of the form. Write the county where you are suing, your name as the plaintiff, the name of the defendant, and under “TO:” the name and address of each defendant. If you are suing a corporation, list it as the defendant, and under “TO:” put the name and address of the registered agent, and officer, director or managing agent of the corporation (for more information on “Business As Defendants”, please see the Appendix). Be sure to fill in Name and Address of Plaintiff or Plaintiff’s Attorney.
The clerk will fill in the rest of the form, sign it, and set the date and time for the trial. This tells the defendant when to come to court.
The date will be no later than 30 days from the day you file your complaint. The clerk may also ask you to fill out a Notice of Assignment/Service card. Put your name on the back, so that it is like a postcard addressed to yourself. The clerk of court mails this card to you when your case is scheduled. It lets you know when your case will be heard and whether the defendant received the summons and complaint.
How to File the Lawsuit
Make a copy of the complaint and summons for yourself and a copy for each defendant you are suing. Give all the copies to the clerk of court, who stamps the date and time on them. When you file the complaint, you will need to pay the court costs of $96.00 or file as an indigent. To file as an indigent you must review and complete the necessary forms. For the filing of the lawsuit to be completed, a copy of the complaint and summons must then be delivered to each defendant. You can have this done through the sheriff’s office, or you can do it yourself through a complicated procedure explained in NCGS§ 1A – Rule 4 – Rules of Civil Procedure. If you choose to use the sheriff’s office, you must pay a $30.00 service fee for each defendant to the sheriff’s office. The clerk’s office will be happy to forward the documents to the sheriff’s office if you have a check or certified funds payable to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. If paying with cash you will be required to take the forms to the sheriff’s office. When filing by mail, use either money order or cashier’s check. Make separate checks for the $96.00 filing fee, to the Clerk of Forsyth County Superior Court, and for the $30.00 service fee for each defendant, to the Forsyth County sheriff’s office. Do not send cash or a personal check. **You must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to receive your copies.
Getting the Legal Papers to the Defendant
You can get the complaint and summons to the defendant using the sheriff, the mail, or other means. The sheriff’s office is much simpler than other methods. For additional information please see North Carolina General Statutes 1A – Rules of Civil Procedures, Rule 4 – (j), (1), e, or click here. Here’s why.
By Sheriff – Often, the clerk’s office will take your papers and your $30.00 fee over to the sheriff’s office. Sometimes, however, you must take the forms stamped by the clerk from the clerk’s office to the sheriff’s office. In either case, keep a copy of the stamped complaint and summons for your records.
The sheriff’s deputy keeps a copy of the summons and fills out the back telling how the complaint and summons were delivered to the defendant. The deputy will then file this information with the clerk of court.
If you use the sheriff, you should receive the assignment card from the clerk telling you whether the defendant received these papers and the date of your trial. If you do not receive the assignment card in several weeks, check with the clerk directly. The case cannot be heard in court if the defendant has not been notified.
By Mail – You may prefer to send the complaint and the summons to the defendant by registered or certified mail, but this is more difficult. You must do this yourself at the post office and ask for return receipt requested. You then have to write a statement and get it certified by a notary public that you followed the right steps in this process. Next, you have to file that statement with the clerk of court, along with the post card which the post office mails back to you showing that the defendant got what you mailed. Then clerk must get this certified statement from you before completing the Notice of Assignment/Service Card.
See state statute; NCGS§ 1A – Rule 4 – (j), (1), e.
e.) By mailing a copy of the summons and of the complaint by signature confirmation as provided by the United States Postal Service, addressed to the party to be served, and delivering to the addressee.
By Other Means – If you cannot get the complaint and summons to the defendant using these instructions, there are other ways to try to serve the defendant. For instance, you can start over with a new summons form, which you can get from the clerk. Or you can use what’s called “Service by Publication,” which is giving notice to a defendant through a newspaper. You may need a lawyer to help you do this process.