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The process of a lawsuit is essentially the same everywhere, with a few, minor procedural differences.
A lawsuit generally follows this process:
1) File the petition in the court with jurisdiction and venue. The court with jurisdiction and venue is usually where the defendant resides or has their place of business. You also have to look at the amount you intend to sue for to determine which court is the correct one. In TM the small claims court can handles lawsuit up to $25,000. Any more than that and they have to be filed in a different court.
2) When you file the petition with the clerk of courts you will pay the filing fee and also ask for citation to be issued and service to be done. The clerk doesn't serve the papers so ask them if you have to take them to the sheriff's office for service or if they will do it. Just follow their directions as to that.
3) The sheriff will serve the defendant with the lawsuit.
4) The defendant will file their answer.
5) You can then do some discovery if necessary but you will need to check with the clerk and ask if your court allows discovery. Some small claims courts do not.
6) After that the next step is to set the case for trial.
7) During the trial you introduce your evidence and they introduce theirs.
8) The judge renders a judgment and a written order is entered.
That is the basic process of a lawsuit.
TN has a pretty good self help section on their court's website page at https://www.tncourts.gov/programs/self-help-center
It has directions on filing a lawsuit, forms, etc.
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