By the time you’re at the point of filing a lawsuit, you’ve probably already had untold hassles with the offending party—usually surrounding the issue of getting them to pay or make good on their contract. But filing a lawsuit is a large undertaking in itself. Here are some things you’ll need to consider when you finally take the whole ball of yarn to a Redding lawyer.
One of the first things your lawyer is going to discuss with you is the question of where to file your lawsuit. A court must have jurisdiction over the defendant in a case in order to make a legal judgment. There are two types of jurisdiction: personal jurisdiction (authority over the parties in a case) and subject matter jurisdiction (authority over the type of case that is being filed).
Generally, a state court has personal jurisdiction over every citizen and business owner in the state. Let’s say you managed a store branch in California for an employer who lived and had his business registered in Nevada. Because the employer was doing business in California, the California courts have jurisdiction over him.
However, if you had an accident in Nevada, and the individual who demolished your car and your health lives there, you will probably need to file suit in Nevada. But if that individual hit your car while he was on a one-time business trip in California, your case can be filed in California.
Subject matter jurisdiction involves the question of whether you need to file in a court with exclusive, limited, or general jurisdiction. For instance, bankruptcies can only be filed in bankruptcy court, which is a federal court with exclusive jurisdiction. State courts do not have the authority to handle bankruptcy cases.
Small claims cases and limited civil cases fall under limited jurisdiction, which means that the court has limitations on the amount of damages that can be claimed. In California, small claims courts can take cases involving damages up to $10,000 while limited civil courts can handle cases for amounts up to $25,000.
General jurisdiction courts, such as California superior courts, can hear a wide variety of cases. However, you’ll still need to determine the right county to file in. That’s called venue. You’ll need to file in the county where the incident happened or where the defendant lives or does business. If those criteria involve three different counties, you can choose the court that’s the closest or most advantageous for you.
Federal or State Court?
There’s one more consideration to be aware of, and that is the issue of whether to file in a state court or a federal court. There are certain types of cases that a state court does not have jurisdiction over—for instance, cases involving federal entities, federal laws, federal employees, or foreign nationals; cases where no one state has jurisdiction over both parties; or cases where the damages claimed are at least $75,000.
When you’re planning to file a claim, it’s good to have a general understanding of the court system. However, you really should consult with your Redding lawyer to make the right decision. Where you file makes a big difference.