Civil Lawsuit Complaints

Civil law cases deal with legal disagreements between individuals, businesses, corporations and partnerships. Some examples include but are not limited to evictions, small claims, civil lawsuits, and covenant marriage. When two parties have a disagreement about property damage, personal injuries, a contract/breach of a contract, or collection of a debt for example, these issues are handled in a civil lawsuit. As opposed to criminal law, where someone is prosecuted by the government for a crime, civil law is the body of law that handles issues between individuals and business or corporate entities.


The person (or business entity) bringing the civil lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person (or business entity) being sued is the defendant.


The Arizona Judicial Branch website outlines the process for bringing a civil lawsuit and going to trial. When bringing a civil lawsuit, you can choose to be represented by an attorney or you have the right to represent yourself.

Please consult an attorney to start your civil lawsuit matter. AZ Statewide Paralegal no longer assists in this area.


General Steps in Bringing a Civil Lawsuit (from

  1. The plaintiff files a document (complaint) with the clerk of the court stating the reasons why the plaintiff is suing the defendant, and what action the plaintiff wants the court to take.
  2. The plaintiff must state whether the case is eligible for arbitration according to court rule.
  3. A copy of the complaint and a summons are delivered to (served on) the defendant.
  4. The defendant has a limited time (usually 20 days) to file a written answer admitting or denying the statements in the complaint.
  5. The plaintiff and the defendant exchange information about the case. This is called discovery.
  6. The case is tried before a jury or a judge.
  7. The judge makes a decision, or the jury gives its verdict, based on the testimony and other evidence presented during trial.
  8. The losing party may appeal the decision to the next higher level of the court.


Of course, this is a general outline and many civil lawsuits do not necessarily go to trial. However, there are specific rules that must be followed. When filing the complaint the court has required information to be included in the complaint. The complaint is the document where you outline the things that the defendant has done that resulted in you being harmed in some way and the reason why you are filing the civil lawsuit. You also include why the particular court you are submitting the complaint to has jurisdiction to hear the grievances being brought forth.


The Arizona Revised Statutes and Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure state that in civil cases where the amount being asked for does not exceed a certain level, the case must be referred to Compulsory Arbitration. This does not include attorney’s fees, interest, and costs. This amount can vary by county, and in Pima County for example, the limit is $50,000.00. At the time a complaint is filed, you must file a separate statement with the Court indicating whether the case is subject to arbitration. In order to go to arbitration the defendant must first “answer” the complaint. If the amount asked for from the plaintiff is $50,000 or less then the case is referred to arbitration.


The Pima County Superior Court website outlines the reason for mandatory arbitration. The law provides for arbitration “as a method of getting smaller disputes resolved more quickly and, it is less costly than going to trial. However, a person’s right to a trial by jury is preserved, since any party who is not satisfied with the result of the arbitration can appeal the case. On appeal, the case returns to the trial judge, and it proceeds to trial, either before a jury or the judge.”


The arbitration process is as follows (from

  1. The Court selects an arbitrator from a list of local attorneys to hear the case.
  2. Either side may strike the assigned arbitrator and another one will be selected.
  3. The arbitration hearing should be set between 60 and 120 days from the selection of the arbitrator.
  4. The arbitrator will conduct the hearing where each side will present their case.
  5. The arbitrator will render a decision and make an award within 10 days of the arbitration hearing.
  6. Any party who is not satisfied with the arbitration award may file a Notice of Appeal within 20 days of the final arbitration award.
  7. If a Notice of Appeal is filed, the case returns to the judge who will set the matter on his or her calendar for a new trial.
  8. If the party appealing the arbitration award does not obtain a result that is 23 percent better than the arbitration award, that party is subject to sanctions. The sanctions can include attorney’s fees, taxable costs and reasonable expert witness fees.


Prior to going to arbitration, however, other parts of the civil lawsuit process take place, so let’s backtrack to cover that information. Once those documents have been submitted to the court, the complaint is then delivered or “served” on the defendant. The defendant has a limited time to respond or “answer.” In Arizona that is 20 days from the date the defendant is served.


If the defendant decides to not answer the complaint, we can work with you to prepare your documents to ask for an “entry of default” against the defendant. This application for default is also mailed to the defendant and they have a certain amount of time to respond to it as well.


Let’s say that your case is proceeding and the defendant answers the original complaint that you submitted to the court. Once the defendant has answered the complaint, the parties in dispute must submit what is referred to as a “Rule 26.1 Disclosure Statement.” The purpose of the disclosure statement is for both parties to list the exhibits or documents they will be using to prove their case. You must also include any witnesses you would call at trial.

Please consult an attorney to start your civil lawsuit matter. AZ Statewide Paralegal no longer assists in this area.




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