What is a Civil Summons?

Have you received a Summons for Civil Action in the mail? If so, you may be confused about what to do next. Here’s what you need to know from the trial attorneys at Sawan & Sawan. A lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint by a Plaintiff. A civil summons is a notification that is sent once that lawsuit is filed. It is sent by the Court where the lawsuit was filed and will notify the person, people or organizations that were named in the lawsuit about certain important considerations involved in answering the lawsuit.  Remember that since a summons is a legal document and can affect your rights, you should always speak to a civil trial attorney before taking any course of action. The faster you can speak to a civil lawyer, the better. At Sawan & Sawan, we offer free, no risk consultations to all prospective new clients. Call today at 419-900-0955 or contact us here. 

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Complaint and Summons

What is a civil summons? When a complaint is filed with a Court in Ohio, the Court issues what is called a summons. The complaint outlines the allegations, factual details and the damages alleged to have been caused by the actions of the named Defendants.  The purpose of the summons is to inform the recipient of several important things, including the following:

  1. You have been named as a Defendant in a Court Case;
  2. You have the right to an Attorney;
  3. You must respond to the complaint (often attached the the summons) within 28 days after receipt of the Summons;
  4. If you fail to file an answer, judgment by default will be rendered against you
  5. The Attorney representing the Plaintiff – if any

Answering a Complaint

One of the most important aspects that the summons notifies the recipient of is the need to file an answer to the complaint. An answer in a lawsuit is a document that outlines the Defendants responses to the allegations. These responses usually take the form of agreement, denial or lack of knowledge and must be made in accordance with rules of civil procedure. The complaint and answer are two of the most important documents in a Court case, as they inform the Court and the parties of the other sides position. It also helps to determine the scope of discovery – as well as legal issues that may be present. The answer is also an opportunity for the responding party to bring counterclaims against the Plaintiff – which are claims brought by a Defendant in response to a lawsuit. It also provides the responding party with a chance to assert a variety of defenses to a lawsuit. As a result, the importance of this document cannot be overstated.

A failure to file an answer can have devastating legal consequences. According to Rule 55 of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules, the party entitled to a judgment by default shall apply in writing or orally to the court therefor; but no judgment by default shall be entered against a minor or an incompetent person unless represented in the action by a guardian or other such representative who has appeared therein. If the party against whom judgment by default is sought has appeared in the action, he (or, if appearing by representative, his representative) shall be served with written notice of the application for judgment at least seven days prior to the hearing on such application. 

If, in order to enable the court to enter judgment or to carry it into effect, it is necessary to take an account or to determine the amount of damages or to establish the truth of any averment by evidence or to make an investigation of any other matter, the court may conduct such hearings or order such references as it deems necessary and proper and shall when applicable accord a right of trial by jury to the parties. As a result, it is vital that you properly file a timely answer to a complaint to avoid having the Court enter judgment against you without challenge. Default judgments have the same weight and force as a judgment on the merits – and the consequences are the same. These consequences can include wage garnishment, attachment of property, liens and more. We advise that you seek legal counsel anytime you are involved in litigation.

Next Step After Receiving a Civil Summons

After the answer is filed, the case can take a variety of different paths. Most typically, the Court will set a pretrial hearing to schedule important deadlines, sequence discovery and set cut off and trial dates. This will begin the process of getting the case ready for a trial. The first step in getting the case to trial is to engage in a process called discovery, in which each side obtains evidence and takes depositions. It is imperative that you hire a trial attorney to help assist you with the litigation process. There are many nuances involved, particularly when it pertains to the rules of civil procedure and evidence that can drastically impact the trajectory of the case. Call Sawan & Sawan today for a free consultation at 419-900-0955. 

About the Authors: Sawan & Sawan is a Toledo, Ohio based Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Truck Accident, Car Accident and Insurance Law Firm with lawyers licensed to practice in Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Georgia.

Wage Loss and Emotional Damages after Car Accidents, I Received a Civil Summons – What Should I Do?, Personal Injury Lawyers | Sawan and Sawan

Dennis E. Sawan

Managing Partner

Licensed in Ohio and Florida

Wage Loss and Emotional Damages after Car Accidents, I Received a Civil Summons – What Should I Do?, Personal Injury Lawyers | Sawan and Sawan

Dennis P. Sawan

Senior Partner

Licensed in Ohio and Georgia

Wage Loss and Emotional Damages after Car Accidents, I Received a Civil Summons – What Should I Do?, Personal Injury Lawyers | Sawan and Sawan

Christopher A. Sawan


Licensed in Ohio and Michigan

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