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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, talk with a lawyer immediately to get advice on what you should do.
Filing the Case
After the Summons and Complaint are served, the Plaintiff can file the Summons and Complaint with the court, along with an Affidavit of Service form, which says when the Defendant was served. A filing fee must be paid to the court. The court gets involved in a case only when Plaintiff or Defendant files their pleadings. Court Administration can explain what happens after a case is filed, including whether a judge is assigned to the case and if an initial hearing may be put on the court calendar.
When the Defendant is served with the Summons and Complaint, she usually has 20 days to serve an Answer on the Plaintiff. (NOTE: An Answer is a formal legal document, not a letter, phone call or e-mail.) After the Defendant's Answer has been served on the Plaintiff, Defendant may file the Answer and Affidavit of Service form with the court and pay the filing fee. If you believe you cannot afford to pay court fees and costs, you can ask the court to waive some or all of the fees by asking for a fee waiver.
Once either party files her pleading with the court, the other party should also file her pleading with the court.
If the Plaintiff files all necessary papers and claims under oath that Defendant missed her deadline to Answer, the court may enter a "default judgment" against Defendant. If the Defendant responds to Plaintiff with a letter or other type of reply, Plaintiff might not be able to get a default judgment and should talk to an attorney or research her options at a local law library.
Depending on the case, a judge may schedule a telephone conference or court hearing to meet with the parties and set deadlines for how the case will proceed, and discuss other issues. 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 keep the Court up-to-date with your contact information.)
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