If you have a legal matter where the amount in controversy is more than $15,000.00, you will need to file a lawsuit in either state or superior court.  Magistrate courts only have jurisdiction for matters where the amount of controversy is $15,000 or less.

All lawsuits begin with the filing of a complaint.  Your complaint will set forth the facts of your case and the cause of action for which you are looking to recover.  For example, if you entered into a contract whereby you provided consulting services for a fee of $20,000 and the other party failed to pay for those services, the complaint may set forth the terms and conditions of the contract and the cause of action may be for breach of contract.

After filing the complaint, it must be served on the defendant.  Service can be made by the sheriff’s office or through a private process server.  Once the defendant is served, he has 30 days in which to file his answer.  If the defendant does not file an answer within this time period, you can file for a default judgment, in which the court may grant you a judgment for $20,000.  If you are going to file for a default judgment, you should technically wait 45 days before filing.

Assuming the defendant files an answer, you will then have an automatic 6 months in which to conduct discovery.  Discovery may consist of filing interrogatories and requests for production, as well as taking depositions.  Interrogatories are questions you pose to the other party for which you want answers, and requests for production are requests for documents that the other party has in his possession.  You may also request documents from third parties.  Depositions are essentially question and answer sessions of an individual or corporate representative that are taken under oath by a court reporter.  The rationale for interrogatories, requests for production and depositions is to find out information which can both help and potentially hurt your case, and on which the other party is going to rely on to win the case.

If the parties do not reach a resolution to the case prior to the close of discovery, the matter will be placed on a trial calendar and will eventually be set for trial.

The information above does not contain every aspect of the litigation process, but rather gives you an overview.  Due to the number and complexity of laws involved with litigation, it is advisable to retain an attorney if you have to file a lawsuit in state or superior court.

Michael Weinstein is an attorney with MBW Law, LLC in Johns Creek. He specializes in labor and employment, corporate transactions, landlord/tenant and litigation. Contact Mike at (678) 387-3396 or mike.weinstein@mbwlaw.net.