FAQ's - Civil

What is a civil action?

A civil action is a lawsuit that involves money, injury or damages, return or property, civil rights, or other non-criminal matters.

How is a civil action started?

A civil actions is started by service (delivery) of a Summons and Complaint. Depending on the situation, service can be done in person, by mail, or by publication. The court rules require that the server is someone who is not a party to the case.
Also in Minnesota, a lawsuit can be started without filing the Summons and Complaint in court, so the first sets of documents might not include a court file number. If you contact the court in the early stages of a case, they may not find a record of the case in their system. To move the lawsuit forward in court, the case must be filed within one year or service of the Summons and Complaint.

What are the important deadlines in civil actions?

  • Answer is due no later than 20 days after service of the Summons and Complaint: The defendant has 20 days after service of the Summons and Complaint to respond by serving a written answer on the plaintiff. If the deadline is missed, plaintiff may be able to get a judgment by default against the defendant.
  • File with the court within one year after services of the Summons and Complaint: Civil actions (except family cases) must be filed with the court within one year of service of the Summons and Complaint. Unless the parties sign a written agreement to extend the filing deadline, failure to file within the year will result in the case being dismissed with prejudice, which means that it can never be filed in District Court.
  • Other deadlines apply to discovery requests and pre-trial motions, and the court may issue orders with specific deadlines.

Do I have a valid case?

Before starting a civil action, you must figure out if you have a legally valid claim. You must also examine how the importance and complexity of the issues compare to the amount in dispute and the costs of litigating the case in court. 
If you do not know the answer to these two questions, you should talk with a lawyer.
  1. Is there a legal basis for my claim?
  2. Has the statute of limitations expired?

Are there any special procedural requirements?

In some situations, you must take specific steps to create a basis for suing. In other words, you need to do something before you sue. Depending on the situation, steps required to be completed before starting a civil case could be included in sources such as the Minnesota statutes, rules or regulations, or in a contract.

How do I respond to a summons and complaint?

Common civil lawsuits involve claims that the defendant owes money for services or purchases, breached a contract or did something else to damage the party who started the lawsuit. 

Can the County Attorney's Office help me with a legal problem?

The duties of the County Attorney's Office are established by state statute. Therefore, the County Attorney is not authorized to represent citizens in any private matters.

With what types of crimes can juveniles be charged?

Juveniles can commit and be charged with crimes ranging from felonies, including first degree murder, to petty misdemeanors.

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