Filing a Civil Suit

a judge in a courtroom

The rules and procedures for filing a civil lawsuit are governed by the Michigan Court Rules (MCR). “The purpose of the Court Rules is to establish uniform rules and procedures for all levels of Michigan’s court system. These regulations ensure that cases are resolved without undue delay and that those who appear in court receive due process and equal treatment under the law.” The Michigan Court Rules can be found in the Law Library located at Kalamazoo Public Library or online at http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules/

Starting an Action (MCR 2.101—2.227)

How do I begin a civil law suit?

To start a civil lawsuit in the State of Michigan, you must file a Summons and Complaint (form MC-01) in either the district court (claims of less than $25,000) or circuit court (claims of more than $25,000). The summons and complaint provides basic information about the parties involved (plaintiff and defendant), the nature of the grievance, and the remedies sought. Plaintiffs must pay filing fees when submitting court forms or other paperwork to the court clerk. Fees may be reduced or waived by filing an Affidavit and Order, Suspension of Fees/Costs (form MC-20). These forms can be found at the Law Library. For claims of less than $3,000, you must file in small claims court, using the form Affidavit and Claim, Small Claims (form DC-84). Small claims forms can be purchased at the 8th district court.

What is an answer? (MCR 2.110)

When a plaintiff files a summons and complaint with the court, a copy is made and served on the defendant. The defendant must respond to the complaint with an answer. The defendant has either 21 days (if served in person) or 28 days (if served by mail) to file a response with the same court. If the defendant does not respond in the required time, a court may enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. Read and follow carefully the rules about how to write an answer.

Discovery Period (MCR 2.301—2.316)

The Discovery period allows the parties the opportunity to explore the facts and issues of the case. Witnesses may be brought in for questioning, depositions may be recorded, and records may be examined or subpoenaed.

Trial (MCR 2.501—2.518)

Before proceeding to trial, the court may require a pretrial conference, case evaluations, or mediation. If there is no resolution, a trial will ensue that is either tried by a judge or a jury. A demand for jury must be requested. Both the plaintiff and the defendant will have the opportunity to present opening statements that provide the jury and judge with an outline of their case against the opposing party. After the opening statements, the trial usually includes presented evidence, witness testimony, examination, and cross-examination. Lastly, the plaintiff and the defendant conclude with closing arguments. If there is a trial, the jury will discuss the case in a separate room and reach a verdict.

Judgment (MCR 2.601—2.613)

After the verdict or default has been entered, a judgment is prepared by the party that prevailed. The judge will sign the judgment before filing it with the clerk of the court. A copy of the judgment will be sent to the losing party.

Post-Judgment (MCR 2.614—2.630)

After the verdict has been reached, a judgment prepared, and a copy of the judgment sent to the losing party, this phase allows for the parties to enforce the judgment or to appeal the outcome of the trial.

How can I find an attorney to help me?

  • The State Bar of Michigan has a toll free lawyer referral hotline at 1-800-968-0738
  • Kalamazoo County Bar Association offers an attorney directory at www.kalamazoobar.org

Where are the District and Circuit Courts in Kalamazoo County?

  • 8th District Court 150 E. Crosstown Parkway, Kalamazoo, MI 49001
  • 9th Circuit Court 227 West Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49007

March 2007