Two or More People

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If you are suing more than one person on a claim arising from the same incident or contract, list the complete names of all defendants. Then you must "serve" (deliver copies of court papers to) each of them to bring them properly before the court. (See Chapter 11.) Listing both names is also required when the defendants are married: List the defendants as John Randolph Smith and Jane Smith, husband and wife (or "spouses" if the partners are in a same-sex marriage in one of the states that allow it). Or, if you don't know the name of one spouse: John Randolph Smith and Mrs. John Randolph Smith, husband and wife.

EXAMPLE: J.R. and June Smith, who are married, borrow $1,200 from you to start an avocado pit polishing business. Unfortunately, in the middle of the polishing, the seeds begin to sprout. J.R. and June get so furious that they refuse to repay you. If you wish to sue them and get a judgment, you should list them as James R. Smith and June Smith–not Mr. and Mrs. Smith. But now suppose that J.R. borrowed $1,200 for the avocado pit business in January, June borrowed $1,000 to fix her motorcycle a month later, and neither loan was repaid. In this situation, you would sue each in separate small claims actions.

Two defendants are better than one, and three are better than two. If two or more people are responsible for your loss (for example, if three tenants damaged your apartment), sue them all. This will enable you to get judgments against several people. You'll be glad you did when you try to collect–if one defendant turns out to be an artful dodger, you can go after the others. (For more information on collecting your judgment, see Chapter 24.)

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