Civil cases are most often disputes between two private persons (individuals, groups or corporations), at least one of whom feels he or she has been wronged by the other. A "case in law" is a dispute in which monetary damages are alleged. A "case in equity" (also called chancery) is a dispute involving something other than money (such as cases about custody, divorce, estates, property ownership and wills). Filing fees may be paid by cash, check or with a VISA or MASTER CARD credit/debit card.
To initiate a case in law, the person bringing about the case (the plaintiff) must file a "motion for judgment" with the Clerk of Circuit Court. The circuit court has jurisdiction over (the authority to hear) these types of cases in law:
If damages (not including interest and any attorney's fees contracted for in the instrument) are alleged to be over $3000 but not over $15,000, the case may be heard in either general district court OR circuit court.
If damages (not including interest and any attorney's fees contracted for in the instrument) are alleged to exceed $15,000, the circuit court has exclusive original jurisdiction.
The circuit court also hears attachments and claims made against the validity of local ordinances and corporate bylaws, and hears appeals of decisions made by certain administrative agencies (eg. determination of habitual offender status).
To initiate a case in equity or chancery, the person bringing about the case (the plaintiff) must file a "complaint" with the Clerk of Circuit Court.
In either cases in law or cases in equity/chancery, the person against whom the complaint is brought (the defendant) has 21 days after he or she is served with process (notified of the suit) to respond to the motion or complaint. In a case in law, the response is called a "grounds of defense." In a case of equity, the response is called an "answer." If the defendant does not reply within 21 days, he or she is considered "in default." This means the defendant admits the facts alleged in the motion or complaint and judgment may be awarded to the plaintiff.
A defendant in a civil case may bring a counterclaim against the plaintiff or a cross-claim against another defendant. Both of these claims also require a response within 21 days.