How to Write a Good Lawsuit


When a dispute cannot be settled, people file lawsuits in civil court to force the other party to do something, such as pay damages. The complaint is the first document in a legal case (the other pleadings being summons, answers and counterclaims). It identifies the parties, sets out the legal basis for the case, and states the plaintiff’s legal claims and what remedy she seeks from the defendant.

To strengthen your complaint, cite supporting documents—police reports, medical records, the defendant’s product manual and press releases, for example. Some states allow you to incorporate these papers by reference into the complaint and some courts also let you attach them. Citation and attachment strengthen your legal claim by showing the court you have a good faith basis for your allegations.

The Constitution gives you broad rights to protest, assemble and comment on matters of public concern. But those rights aren’t unlimited. Some people try to pressure you into silence with baseless lawsuits, known as SLAPP suits. For example, developers and merchants have sued critics of their businesses, journalists who write about alleged wrongdoing by local officials and others, and people who speak out publicly on issues they care about. They do this to avoid being slowed down by legitimate criticism. They also do it to bully and intimidate. Defendants are often unprepared for these kinds of lawsuits and they lose a lot of time and money. It’s best to contact an experienced lawyer early in the case so you can protect yourself and your reputation.

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