Identify the Appropriate Court

If you are the plaintiff, you must identify the appropriate court in which to file your lawsuit.

Statutes (laws) limit the “jurisdiction” (power) that each court has.  Legal actions may be filed in state or federal courts.  The question of state or federal court will depend on several issues — the type of case, dollar amount sought in damages, and number and location of the parties.

You must also determine the appropriate state court or federal court in which to file.

As a general rule of thumb, you should file a case that involves state law in a state court.  State law cases normally include divorce, landlord-tenant matters, personal injury, and breach of contract cases.  State courts normally have the authority to hear lawsuits about events that took place within the state.

Federal courts have jurisdiction in a more limited type of cases. Common federal claims include violations of copyright and trademark law, unfair competition claims, and discrimination claims.  Federal courts also hear cases in which the parties are located in different states IF the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

If you file your case in the wrong court, your case will be dismissed.  You can file your case again in the proper court.  But the statute of limitations must not have expired.  Study this issue carefully, and file your lawsuit long before the statute of limitations could be an issue.

Once you have identified the appropriate court, you must identify the proper venue for the case.  Each state has a court in each county, but you must identify the right one.  An appropriate venue is one where an auto accident occurred, where a contract was executed or was to be completed, where the defendant does business or lives, or where other critical events occurred.