If you are sued you will be served a summons and a complaint. The summons will tell you what court you are being sued in. You will see either Circuit Court, Chancery Court, or General Sessions Court. Most lawsuits are filed in General Sessions.
General Sessions Courts have jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in controversy is Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) or less. [See Tennessee Code Annotated §16-15-501(d)(1)]. Additionally, the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure do not apply to cases filed in General Sessions. (See Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1).
Civil lawsuits filed in Circuit or Chancery Court require an answer or some responsive pleading or you risk a default. That is not the case in General Sessions. On the summons you will be given a court date and you must appear on that date or risk a default judgment. When you show up to Court the Plaintiff (who will be a bank or a debt buyer) will have a lawyer there. If you are not represented, you will have to sit and talk to that lawyer. DOESN’T SEEM FAIR DOES IT! That’s because it is not. That lawyer will do whatever they have to in order to get you to pay money even if the case is garbage. If the case is not resolved, then there will be a trial and the Court will make an ultimate decision about the case.
If you are not happy with the ultimate ruling in a general Sessions Court, you have an automatic right to appeal to the Circuit Court. [See Tennessee Code Annotated §27-5-108]. All you need to do is file a notice of appeal and pay a small appeals bond (costs of filing) within ten (10) days after the General Sessions Court’s decision. Keep in mind, if you do appeal and find yourself in Circuit Court the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure will apply.
Lawsuits filed in any Court is tricky and requires a lawyer if success is at all a concern. Contact our office right away if you are sued in any Court in Tennessee. We can help.