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Definition of Complaint

A complaint is the first document filed by the plaintiff in a case, generally with the county clerk. The complaint is usually generated by a lawyer and outlines the legal basis for the claim.

The format for a complaint can vary by state but can generally be found online. United Federal Courts have published general guidelines a petitioner can use for their complaint. Common elements of a complaint include: The name, address and telephone number of the attorney, the name of the originating court, the parties involved in the dispute and a description of the complaint. The complaint should also list the jurisdiction, the parties involved, the cause of action, and the demand of relief.

The demand for relief can include the request for injunctive relief which is non-monetary, declaratory judgment, and compensation such as money or punitive compensation. The recipient has a specified time to answer the complaint and appear personally in court, as per the instruction of the summons. Defendants who do not respond to a complaint can expect the court to rule in favor of the petitioner.

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