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9 Steps in a Civil Lawsuit



Introduction to the 9 Steps in a Civil Lawsuit

Civil suit is a suit where damages and compensation are sought in court for the violation of civil rights of a party. Civil suit can also be initiated for the purpose of enforcing an obligation or duty created by law.

The categories of action commenced under civil suit include: Action for recovery of premises, matrimonial causes proceeding, Electoral matters, land matters, action for recovery of debt, Enforcement of fundamental rights, action for breach of contract, torts claim etc.

In Civil suit, the focus at times may not only be restricted to damages and compensation, it could also be for declaration of title, rights and injuctive reliefs.


Steps in a Civil suit

Pre-filing Stage

As noted by Civil law Self help Center, the first step towards civil suit is always a client meeting a lawyer with his legal problem. The lawyer interviews the client.

In the course of the interview, the lawyer obtains all the relevant facts from the client.

From the facts presented by the client, the lawyer will know whether the client has the locus Standi to institute the action.

Pleading Stage and Service of Processes

Where the client has a legal right to enforce, the lawyer will prepare the relevant court processes and file same in court.

See also  Jurisdiction of Courts in Nigeria

Upon the filing of the said processes in Court, the law requires that the processes be served on the person sued(Defendant).

Service of Legal processes can be done in two ways:

  • Service by personal means, which entails , handling a copy of the court processes to the Defendant personally at where he lives. But where personal service is not achievable, the law also recognize;
  • Service by substituted means. In this way, the Defendant will be served by pasting same at any place as the order of court may specify. This is done however, after leave of court has been sought and obtained.

Joining of Issues

Upon being served with the Plaintiff’s processes, the Defendant is expected to enter appearance. The Defendant enters appearance by filing memorandum of appearance, together with Statement of Defence and counter claim and other accompanying processes.

The said processes of the Defendant will be served on the Plaintiff. Upon receipt of same, the Plaintiff will file reply to Statement of Defence and Defence to Counter claim.

The filing and service of the said plaintiff’s reply on the Defendant, means that the parties have joined issues.

Mention/ Report of Service

At the first time the matter is coming up, it is always for report of service. The plaintiff counsel will inform the court that he has served the originating process and other accompanying process on the Defendant.

If the Defendant or his Counsel is in court, it is an evidence that they were served. But if there are not in court, court will check it’s file to see if there is proof of services. Upon being satisfied that the Defendant was served, the matter may proceed.

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Pre trial Conference

  • At this stage, parties would have filed their pre-trial forms. The Plaintiff files form 17 while the Defendant files form 18.

At pretrial, non contentious issues like motions, are disposed off.

Parties on the date slated for pretrial, adopts their various pretrial forms.
The parties can as well, elect to waive Pre-trial. In this instance, the matter proceed to hearing.


At hearing, the Plaintiff opens his case first by calling PW1. PW1 will be led in Examination in Chief to adopt his Statement in Oath. Thereafter, he will be cross-examined and re-examine where necessary and discharged.

All the witnesses of the plaintiff will testify in the same manner. At the end of the Evidence of Plaintiff’s witnesses, the plaintiff will close his case.

At the close of the case of the plaintiff, the Defendant opens it’s case by calling witnesses to testity. After the Defendant’s witnesses have finished testifying, the Defendant will close it’s case. This brings the stage of hearing to an end.

Adoption of Final address

At the close of hearing, parties file their final addresses. Usually, the Defendant files first where he Defended the suit and same is filed within 21 days from the date of close of hearing.

Plaintiff also files his address upon the receipt of the Plaintiff’s final address and same shall be filed within 21 days. Upon receiving same, the Defendant shall be entitled to reply on point of law.

Upon filing addresses, parties come to court to adopt same on the date slated for final addresses.

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The law as regards to final addresses has be modified by the recent case of . The law before is that addresses is not mandatory, as it does not take the place of evidence.

But the case of has modified that position a little thus

Judgement and enforcement

The court gives it’s judgement on the case of the parties before it. The judgement of court represent the court findings on the facts as presented by parties and in juxtaposition with the provisions of the relevant laws.

The judgement of the court must be obeyed. Where a party fails to comply with the judgement of court, the party in whose favour the judgement was made can commence enforcement action.

Judgement of court can be enforced through writ of fierra Facie, writ of Sequestration, Judgement summons, Writ of possession, Garnishee proceedings, etc


Where any of the parties to the suit is aggrieved with the judgement of the court, such a party will appeal against the said judgement to a higher court.

How much does it cost to file a suit?

Cost of civil suit can be categorized into two: The cost of filing the civil processes and the attorney charges.

In terms of the cost of filing processes, the Court Rules always provide for costs. The cost you pay for filing actions are prescribed by Rules of court.

On the other hand, the lawyers or attorneys charges are not static. It varies according to the personality of the Attorney, his years of experience and expertise, and the nature of the clients case. The attorney’s Charges also depends on Countries.



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