DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is required

Initial Filing Fee: $210

In New York, civil actions typically begin in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Do not be fooled by the name of the court; unlike many states, the Supreme Court in New York is a lower court, and is where most proceedings begin. As in any state, a civil proceeding in New York begins with the filing of a complaint, along with payment of the appropriate filing fee, in the appropriate court, and with service of the complaint on each defendant named in the complaint.

Step 1: Statute of Limitations

Consult NY CPLR Article 2, the area of New York law dealing with statutes of limitations (time limits), to determine whether your case is timely. If you wait too long and the statute of limitations (deadline) has passed, your case is likely to be dismissed. Though a judge may not be able dismiss the case for this reason, if any or all defendants raise that defense to your complaint, it may be dismissed.

Step 2: Draft a Complaint

Draft your complaint. A complaint can be a very complicated legal document, and it may be helpful to model your complaint on complaints drafted by a licensed attorney. That said, a complaint is a typed, double-spaced description of the Plaintiff’s charges against each defendant, complete with a factual description of the circumstances and a prayer for relief (what you want from the court).

Step 3: Commence the Action and Serve the Complaint on Defendants

An action is commenced only when an index number is obtained from the Clerk of the Court. An index number costs $210. Service must be made on each of the defendants named in the complaint. The requirements for service on defendants are both important and complex, and if an attorney is not consulted, adequate legal research should be conducted on this issue.

Index Number Purchase Form

Additional Resources

Supreme Court, Civil Branch Instructions
New York Civil Branch
New York Case Commencement Information

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