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Taking a Civil Action to Court

IMPORTANT: In Minnesota, a civil action is started when the Summons and Complaint are served on the defendant, which can happen before a case is filed with the court and given a file number. If you were served with a Summons and Complaint and don't know what you should do, talk with a lawyer immediately to get advice. Court employees can provide general information on court rules and procedures, but are not allowed to give legal advice.

Filing the Pleadings (documents) in Court

When you file pleadings with the court, you must pay a filing fee or get a fee waiver. You must also file a Civil Cover Sheet form #CIV117.

In general, after serving the Summons and Complaint, the plaintiff files her Summons and Complaint with the court along with an Affidavit of Service form, which shows when the defendant was served. NOTE: As of July 1, 2013, civil actions (except family cases) must be filed the court within one year after service of the Summons and Complaint on the defendant. See Rule 5.04 of the MN Rules of Civil Procedure. Unless the parties sign a written agreement to extend the filing deadline, failure to file within the year may result in the case being "dismissed with prejudice," which means that it can never again be filed in District Court.

In general, the defendant must serve a written Answer to the plaintiff no later than 20 days after being served with the Summons and Complaint, or he risks having a default judgment filed against him. Under the rules, an Answer is a written legal document, not a phone call, email or other type of communication. See Rule 5.02 of the MN Rules of Civil Procedure. After serving the written Answer, the defendant files his Answer in court along with an Affidavit of Service form.

If the plaintiff files all necessary papers and also claims under oath that defendant failed to meet the deadline for serving an Answer, the court may enter a default judgment against defendant. If the defendant had responded to plaintiff with a letter or other method of reply, the plaintiff might not be able to get a default judgment, and should talk to an attorney about her legal rights and options.

Scheduling Conference

Depending on the situation, the judge may schedule a telephone conference or hearing early in the court process to meet with the parties and set deadlines for how the case will proceed. The court will notify the parties by mail with the date and time of the Scheduling Conference. If you move or change your phone number, send a letter to Court Administration. NOTE: It is very important to notify the court with any changes to your contact information.


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