Filing My Complaint
Once you have filled out all the necessary forms the complaint must be assigned a case number. After you sign the complaint and notice, it will be sealed or time and date stamped by the clerk of the court and filed.
Always be courteous to the clerk of the court because he or she is the last guard of the watchtower who can reject your filing. When dealing with the clerk remain calm and confident in the fact that you know the law. The clerk who is filing your action is not an attorney. They often will have just enough information to be dangerous enough to prevent you from filing your claim. If a clerk tells you that you cannot file your case in that courthouse because the defendant corporation was incorporated in another state, politely explain that the Defendant airline is registered to do business in the state, maintains an office in the state and therefore by law you are legally able to bring a claim against the Defendant. If the clerk haughtily tells you that your claim is going to be dismissed so you shouldn't bring it, smile and request that your claim be filed anyway. In most cases your complaint will be filed. If not, remain determined, try another clerk and you will eventually have your claim filed.
Serving the Defendant:
The law requires that the Defendant be served with the complaint so that the Defendant has notice that an action has been filed against the entity or person. Most states give you the option for an additional expense to have the clerk serve the Defendant by certified mail. You may also be able to serve the Defendant yourself by certified mail with a return receipt requested. You will need a form from the clerk of the court, as well as the Defendant's and agent's name and address. Do not forget to put the complaint number on the form as well. The postman will only give the Defendant the letter after the Defendant signs the green return receipt attached which will be mailed back to you and establish proof of service. After you receive the receipt (green postcard) you must file it with the court in person or by first class mail.
If you have tried to serve the Defendant by certified mail and the documents are refused or returned unopened you must take the unopened envelope to the clerk's office. The clerk will open the envelope and issue a substitute summons that can be served on the Defendant by a private process server or the sheriff. The cost of the process server will be added to your judgment if you win your lawsuit, along with the cost of filing your complaint in most states.
A third option usually available is to serve the Defendant by a disinterested adult. A disinterested adult can be anyone that is age 18 or older and has no interest in the outcome of the case. Always check your jurisdiction for the appropriate service options for that state. The complaint must be served the same day it is filed by the clerk of the court.
Whether you serve the Defendant by certified mail, private process server, sheriff, disinterested adult or other method approved by the court you must have a separate copy of the summons and complaint served on each Defendant. You can send the original to the lead plaintiff and send a photocopy of the summons and complaint to all other Defendants.