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What is the amount of time I have to serve someone in a civil lawsuit? And after serving what shall my next step be?

Mount Vernon, NY |

I had filed a civil lawsuit against someone on december 1st 2009. I really don't know much about this process. So i was just told that I have to find a way to serve this person. They live 6 hours a way and I know I can send it certified mail. But I wanted to know is it too late? Secondly, After serving this person i'm not sure what my next step should be. I am suing them for loans plus defamation of character, slanderism, and pain and suffering. I want to make sure i'm doing everything right. Thank you

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Attorney answers 4


The specific procedures for starting a lawsuit vary from state to state, but generally, after filing your complaint with the clerk, you have 20 or 30 days to serve the defendant. If you don't, you may have to go to court to explain why you haven't done it, or the judge may dismiss your case, or something like that.

If you had successfully served the defendant within the deadline, and filed your proof of service with the court, then the next step would be for the defendant to file an answer (or other motion). Again, there's a deadline, and if the defendant doesn't respond, you can ask for a default judgment (you win because the other side didn't show up).

I can't tell you whether you're too late in New York, but it'd be a good thing to find out before you spend any more time or effort. Any New York lawyer could tell you, or you could read the statute yourself. So far, you're NOT doing everything right. If this case is important to you, you might want to hire a lawyer. If you're already having trouble at this early stage, you aren't likely to win if you have to do any actual presentation of your case.


Generally speaking the NY CPLR governs most court procedural questions, including timing for service. You can see the operative rule below, which may speak to your situation if you bought an index number in NY Supreme Court. In short, you likely have 120 days.

Rule 306-b

Service of the summons and complaint, summons with notice, or of the third-party summons and complaint.

Service of the summons and complaint, summons with notice, or of the third-party summons and complaint shall be made within one hundred twenty days after their filing, provided that in an action or proceeding where the applicable statute of limitations is four months or less, service shall be made not later than fifteen days after the date on which the applicable statute of limitations expires. If service is not made upon a defendant within the time provided in this section, the court, upon motion, shall dismiss the action without prejudice as to that defendant, or upon good cause shown or in the interest of justice, extend the time for service.

I hope this helps.

Disclaimer: This answer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute general or specific legal advice, nor create an attorney client relationship.


I only agree with Mr. Wahab's answer which is correct.

Good luck.


Hire a have 120 days to serve the summons and complaint from the date it is filed with the Court if it is in Supreme Court. Good Luck.

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.

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