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Filing a Summons and Complaint

Commencing a lawsuit without the assistance of an attorney can be difficult. Court staff cannot take the place of an attorney or give you legal advice.  If you choose to proceed without an attorney, you must understand that you will be held to the same standards as an attorney in following procedural rules and meeting statutory requirements.  You may wish to consult the resources and materials available at the Dakota County Law Library located at 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN  55033.

To start a lawsuit and sue someone, you must complete, serve and file a Summons and Complaint.  These papers are called the pleadings.  They are the first papers filed with the Court to start the lawsuit.  These papers tell the Court what happened and explain what relief you are requesting the Court to grant you.  You are called the plaintiff(s).  The person(s) that you are suing is called the defendant(s).

You will usually sue the defendant in the county where he/she/they reside, however, this may change depending on the circumstances of each case.  Jurisdiction can be complicated and because each case is unique, you may wish to consult an attorney.  Court personnel cannot give you legal advice as to where you must sue the defendant.

The first part of the Summons and Complaint is called the caption and must list the full name(s) of the party(ies).  Do not use initials or titles such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc. (middle initials are acceptable).  If you are suing a company or corporation (business entity) you must list the name correctly.  You may wish to contact the Secretary of State to verify the type of business entity and to get the correct name.  The names of the parties are important.  If you have the wrong name you may not be able to collect your judgment even if you do win in court.  The summons must be signed.

The complaint states your claim against the opposing party and the relief you are requesting.  The complaint should answer the following questions:

What happened?
Where did it happen?
When did it happen?
How were you damaged?
What relief do you want the court to grant you?

You must state a claim upon which the Court may grant relief.  You should set this information out in numbered paragraphs in the complaint using plain language and being as specific as possible.  You must be careful to include all your information and requests for relief.  It is important that you follow all statutory requirements and procedural rules.  Once the complaint is answered by the opposing party you will not be able to make changes without special permission from the court.

When the complaint is completed, you must have a copy of the Summons and the Complaint served upon the defendant(s).  If there is more than one defendant, each defendant must be served.  An independent third party who has no interest in the proceedings, is not a party to the lawsuit and is over the age of 18 must serve the Summons and Complaint.  The papers must be handed directly to the party(ies).   This is called personal service.  Depending upon the circumstances of your case, there may be other methods of service.  You may wish to consult an attorney or the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure regarding methods of service.  The person who serves the papers must fill out and file an Affidavit of Service with the Court.

After you have served a copy of the Summons and Complaint on the Defendant(s), you must file the original Summons and Complaint and the affidavit of service with the Civil Division of the District Court.  The filing fee must be paid at the time of filing.  

After you have filed your Summons and Complaint with the Court, you must file a Certificate of Representation within 7 days and an Informational Statement must be filed within 60 days. You will then receive notices from the Assignment Division regarding scheduling deadlines, trial dates and ADR requirements. Meeting these requirements is your responsibility.   Representing yourself and not having an attorney will not be an excuse for failure to meet deadlines, file documents or appear in Court.