Are you conversant with how to file a lawsuit in Michigan? If you want to know how this post is for you.
You must follow due process when filing a lawsuit. In addition, note that the process isn’t free. You’ll pay a filing fee besides hiring an attorney (unless it’s a small claim case where you can proceed pro se). Filing fees are also based on the claim amount.
Here, we’ll explain how to file a lawsuit in the Great Lake State and other important things you need to know. Keep reading to get more details.
How To File A Lawsuit In Michigan
Here is how you file a lawsuit in Michigan.
1: Gather your evidence:
The first step is to gather your evidence. You’ll need the evidence to prepare your complaint and turn the case in your favor when the hearing starts.
Examples of evidence include employment records, medical records, police reports, videos, photographs, witness statements, etc.
Some of the evidence may take time to be available, so you have to be patient. Ensure you have enough evidence before you proceed to the next step.
2: Hire an attorney:
You can hire an attorney to help you prepare and file your complaint or proceed without one. In Michigan, you can even proceed pro se ( represent yourself).
In addition, you don’t need a lawyer to represent you in a small claim case; you have to represent yourself. You must be ready to tell the magistrate or judge why you should get the claim. Prepare your evidence and prepare to speak in front of the judge and your opponent.
A Handy Tip: You can’t represent yourself or proceed pro se certain situations. Examples include cases involving corporations and partnerships. You would need an attorney for such cases. The law is also clear on this one. A pro se litigant doesn’t have the right to represent a class in a class action.
So, let’s assume you’re not hiring an attorney and want to file the case yourself.
3: Fill out the relevant form:
The first step we mentioned is the phase where you must gather evidence. The evidence in your possession will enable you to decide whether to proceed with the case.
Let’s assume you have enough evidence to convince the judge to decide the case in your favor. Your next step would be to file an Affidavit and Claim. You have to file it in a Small Claims Court.
How can you gain access to this form? You can do so by visiting the district court. Inform the clerk that you’re interested in filing a small claims case.
A Handy Tip: Don’t sign the signature part after filling the form unless the court clerk or notary public is present. Only sign the form when any of them is present.
4: Filing of claim:
The next important step in filing a lawsuit in Michigan is to file your claim. You can file it with the district court clerk.
You have two options regarding location to file your case. You can file the case where the defendant resides or works. Another option is to file it where the incident took place.
For instance, if you own a cleaning service company and you’re suing a client for unpaid bills, you can file the claim where you did the cleaning job or the district where the client resides or works.
5: Pay filing fee:
When filing a lawsuit, you must pay a filing fee. The amount you’re required to pay as a filing fee depends on the amount demanded in the lawsuit. Here is a quick example of what we’re trying to explain.
- For claims up to $600, filing fee is $30
- For claims ranging from $600 to $1750, filing fee is $50
- For claims ranging from $1,750 to $6,500, the filing fee is $70.
A Handy Tip: Out-of-state individuals or businesses are eligible to file a small claim lawsuit against a person living in Michigan.
Another vital tip litigants need to know is your case can proceed without paying the filing fee. In this scenario, you have to notify the court clerk. But remember that the court case won’t begin unless you pay the fee or your file fee is waived.
Once the bill is waived or paid, your case will be admitted to the court and given a case number. The clerk will assign your case to a judge or magistrate and complete the notice of hearing.
When you file a lawsuit in Michigan and pay your filing fee, note that there’s a chance that you might get your filing fee back. However, this can only happen when you win the case.
6: Notifying the defendant:
Your case can only proceed when the defendant is notified. In this scenario, the court will ensure a copy of the claim gets to the defendant.
The court won’t fund the serving of the affidavit and claim; you must pay for them. You can send the claim to each of the defendants via diverse options. You can send via personal service or certified mail; the choice is yours.
The personal service is more expensive. It could cost you as much as $26 plus mileage, while the certified mail is $15.
Let the clerk know how you want the claim delivered to the defendant. But then, the most important thing is for the defendant to get notified, not how you sent the claim.
7: Defendant reacts to the claim:
The defendant has to respond to your claim, and can do so in several ways. A defendant who knows you have a strong case would request an out-of-court settlement. However, it’s left for you to decide or accept to settle the matter out of court.
The defendant can also respond by demanding that the case be moved to the district court. In addition, a defendant can respond to the case by appearing in court.
What if the defendant refuses to honor the court’s invitation?
Note that a defendant can reject the lawsuit and decide against appearing in court. But when this happens, a default judgment will be entered on the day of the hearing.
A Handy Tip: It’s important to respond to lawsuits quickly. Don’t avoid the court because it’s a small claims court, as you could land in trouble for such.
8: Responding to the defendant’s out-of-court settlement demand:
What should you do when a defendant wants the case settled out of court and finds you the settlement terms enticing? If you find the terms favorable, you can accept the request to settle out-of-court.
Now, here’s what you have to do. Since you have already involved the court, don’t sideline them. Instead, put the agreement into writing and ask the judge to approve it as the judgment for the case. Ensure both of you sign the agreement, too.
You can settle out of court and dismiss the case without the judge adopting the agreement as the judgment for the court case. The only challenge is that you may have to file a new lawsuit if the defendant fails to comply with the agreement.
The benefit of asking the judge to adopt the agreement as the judgment for the case is enormous. If the person fails to comply with the payment, the court can use legal means to ensure you get your claims, and you won’t even break a sweat on the issue before getting your compensation.
A Handy Tip: You can dismiss your case by filling out the “dismissal” form. Call the clerk and ask how the court would like you to dismiss the case since you have reached an agreement with the defendant.
9: Transferring the case to the district court:
What if you want to transfer the case from the small claim court to the district court, or the defendant wants the same thing? The defendant has the right to request a transfer of the case, and so do you.
You can initiate the transfer before the hearing begins. You can even do it on the hearing day but not after the hearing has started.
How to transfer cases of such magnitude is simple. File the “Demand and Order for Removal, Small Claims, and the case will be transferred. But consider the disadvantages before moving the court case.
Firstly, the case will take longer to decide once it leaves the small claims court. Why? The district court is where the formal rules of evidence and discovery begin.
A Handy Tip: The evidence you gathered at the beginning will be put to good use if the case takes a different angle. So, you must be ready for anything the defendant throws at you. This explains why you must prepare all the relevant pieces of evidence before you proceed to file a lawsuit.
Furthermore, another disadvantage of transferring the case to the district court is that you and the defendant may have to hire an attorney.
10: The hearing begins:
How prepared are you for the hearing? Think about the things you would like the judge or magistrate to know; make a list of them and prepare to say them during the hearing.
You would need evidence to convince the judge or magistrate to decide the case in your favor. You can only win a case by presenting substantial evidence. So, gather all the pieces of evidence you need. These include sales receipts, affidavits from a witness, receipts, guarantees, accident reports, etc.
A Handy Tip: Remember to show up to court hearings on time. Arrive before the allocated time for the hearing.
Dress neatly and look presentable. Be yourself, and don’t show up to your court hearing drunk.
Follow the judge or magistrates instructions when called. Answer the questions directly, too. And don’t interrupt the other party when it’s not your turn to speak; you won’t convince the judge to rule in your favor by acting this way.
Remember to take all relevant evidence to the court and show it to the judge or magistrate. Make the evidence a breeze for the judge to understand, too.
11: The outcome of the hearing:
The magistrate or judge will give final judgment after listening to both of you (plaintiff and defendant) speak. You and the defendant will get a final copy of the judge’s verdict.
The case can go both ways. You may win or lose it. However, if you lose and the defendant has a counterclaim, be ready to pay the defendant.
On the other hand, if the defendant loses, then you’ll get paid. The judge can influence the amount you’ll receive as a claim.
We have explained how to file a lawsuit in Michigan. You can see that the process is straightforward. Filling a lawsuit can be the best option to seek compensation or resolve a civil matter. However, before you take any step, have at the back of your mind that the process may be time-consuming and stressful.
In addition, your privacy may be invaded. In other words, the court may permit the defendant to ask you any question about your private life to win the case.
The defendant may even request the case be moved to a district court, making the case more difficult. If the case leaves the small court to the district court, note that it will take time, and you may have to hire an attorney. This alone can place more demand on your finances.