Law 101

Being Sued

You’ve received a Summons and Complaint. Now what?

When a lawsuit is started against you, the Plaintiff will have you served with a Summons and Complaint. These documents formally notify you that a lawsuit has been initiated, and what the lawsuit is about. For most types of lawsuits, the law requires you to file a written response with the court within 30 calendar days after you are served, if you wish to contest the case.  By filing a response, you establish that you are contesting the case and requiring the plaintiff to prove their case at trial in order to win.

If you do not file your response in time, the other party may get a default judgment against you. This means that the other party wins the case, and the court will not consider anything you have to say. The other party can begin enforcing this judgment by garnishing your wages, placing liens on your property, or levying your bank accounts.

Community Resources

Bookshelves labeled Self Help For Help
SH@LL (Self Help @ the Law Library)
Handshake Alternative to Court
Sacramento Mediation Center


The Judicial Council creates many of the forms needed for a civil lawsuit in California state courts. Sacramento County Superior Court also creates forms for use in this county specifically. For other situations, you may need to create your own forms. Our Legal Research Guides & Step by Steps have instructions and samples for many commonly-used forms.

Form Resources

Court Summons Judicial Council Forms These forms can be filled out online, and printed for filing.
Sacramento Superior Court Sacramento County Local Forms These forms are for use only in Sacramento County.
Pleading Paper Common forms for lawsuits Sacramento County Public Law Library has prepared forms for some common situations.
Federal Courthouse fountain United States District Courts The national forms for use in Federal courts.

Research Guides

The Law Librarians have created these research guides as an aid for those starting a legal research project. These guides recommend print and electronic resources that will help you find answers to your law-related questions. Many guides provide step-by-step information, as well as sample forms, for common legal procedures.


The Law Librarians created these pamphlets in response to frequently asked questions on subjects not appropriate for more substantive guides.


The Sacramento County Public Law Library and other courts and libraries have prepared helpful videos on Civil Lawsuit topics.

Videos from the Sacramento County Public Law Library

Case Management video Completing Your Case Management Statement Provides background and explanation of the Case Management Program forms.
How to Serve Court Papers by Mail Explains how to serve documents by mail and complete the Proof of Service form.
Football video If You Understand Football... Explains the different stages of a civil lawsuit.
Court system video Court System: Who Are the Players? What Do They Do? Sacramento County Superior Court staff discuss the roles of various court personnel.

Videos from Other Libraries and Courts