A civil suit starts with the Plaintiff filing a complaint against the Defendant with the court. The Plaintiff is the person bringing the civil suit and the Defendant is the person being sued. The complaint is the official accusation wherein the Plaintiff states what the Defendant did wrong and what the Plaintiff wants from the Defendant to make it right. The West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure contemplate brevity in forms such as complaints, so a complaint need not be extremely detailed. The details of a case will come out later on in the process.


After the Plaintiff has initiated a civil suit by filing a formal complaint with the court, the Defendant must be notified that a lawsuit has been filed against them. The formal notification that a civil suit has been filed against you is called a summons.

Once the Plaintiff files a complaint and pays the applicable fees, the court clerk will issue a summons to the Defendant and deliver the summons at the direction of the Plaintiff. There are many different ways to deliver a summons to a Defendant but usually they are delivered by certified mail, first class mail, by the sheriff, or personally to the Defendant by someone who is over 18 years old and not a party to the case.

All summons must be served to the Defendant with a copy of the complaint. Whoever serves the summons to the Defendant is required to file a certificate of service with the Court that states that the person did in fact serve the summons to the Defendant.