Civil lawsuits pursue compensation for a perceived wrong. It begins when one individual (the plaintiff) files a complaint in court against another individual (the defendant). Any person or business may file a civil suit against another.
Examples of civil cases are: money disputes, breach of contract, personal injury, property damage, and fraud. Small Claims, Evictions, and Protective Orders are special types of civil cases and are handled separately.
Dollar Amount Limits
The justice courts have exclusive jurisdiction (authority) to hear all civil actions when the amount involved is below $10,000 not including interest, costs and awarded attorney fees.
Parties with claims for less than $3,500 should consider filing in the Small Claims division of justice court.
There are 26 justice courts in Maricopa County, so it is important to choose the correct one to file your case. This usually is determined by geography: where the defendant resides or does business.
You may enter an address on the Maricopa County Recorder's Office map viewer to determine the proper justice court.
Rules of Court
In a regular civil proceeding either party may be hire an attorney or choose to represent him- or herself.
Whether or not lawyers are involved, everyone must follow the Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure. Reviewing these rules ahead of time may help you prepare and present your case in the best way.
Statutes of Limitations
- 60 days - Security deposits from a rental (ARS 33-1321(D))
- One year - Malicious prosecution; false imprisonment; libel or slander; breach of employment contract; wrongful termination; liability created by statute (ARS 12-541)
- Two years - Personal injury; injury when death ensues; damage to property; conversion of property; product liability; forcible entry and eviction action (ARS 12-542)
- Three years - Debt from oral contract; stated or open account; relief on ground of fraud or mistake (ARS 12-543)
- Four years - Bond to convey realty; partnership account; account between merchants; judgment or instrument given or made without the state; bond of personal representative or guardian; specific performance of contract to convey realty (ARS 12-544, 545, 546); actions for which no limitation is otherwise prescribed (other than for recovery of real property) (ARS 12-550)
- Six years - Written contracts for debt (ARS 12-548)
*Under some special circumstances, time limits can be extended or deferred. Please consult an attorney to determine if these circumstances apply to your case.
Service of Summons and Complaint
Once you file your lawsuit, you are responsible for getting a copy of the complaint and court summons to the defendant. This is called service of process and must comply with specific rules.
- In addition to any other available methods, service shall be by a private process server.
- You designate the process server you wish to employ to perform the service for you.
- The fees of a private process server are regulated by statute. The process server may ask for payment in advance or may bill you for the cost of the service, and you are to make payment directly to the process server for the services performed.
Important: Your action will be dismissed if the summons and complaint have not been served within 90 days of the case filing.
Our Forms page has instructions and how-to packets to walk you through all that you need. In most cases you can fill out the forms on your computer and then print them out.
Civil Suit Fees
|Civil Complaint and Summons||$101.00|
|Answer to Civil Complaint||$68.00|
|Writ of Garnishment (does not include Constable service)||$33.00|
|Writ of Garnishment (includes minimum mileage)||$97.00|
|Writ of Restitution (includes minimum mileage)||$115.00|
|Writ of Execution (includes minimum mileage)||$113.00|
|Judgment Debtors Exam Issue Fee||$28.00|
|Filing any paper or performing any act for which a fee is not specifically prescribed||$28.00|
|Certification of any documents||$28.00|
|Notice of Appeal Filing Fee (Certification, transmittal, audio record)||$84.00|
|Copies of documents||$0.50 per page|