Summons and Complaints

A summons is a legal document issued by a court or by an administrative agency of government. A complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and reasons that a party or parties believe are sufficient to support a claim against the university or university personnel.

How to determine whether to accept service of a civil summons or complaint.

A civil lawsuit begins after a "Summons and Complaint" has been filed in court. This document, commonly referred to as a "complaint," notifies the named defendant(s) that a legal action has been filed against them and sets forth the facts and legal theories under which the plaintiff seeks recovery against the named defendants.

The litigation process cannot begin until the complaint has been delivered to the individuals and/or entities being sued. This delivery is called "service of process." A complaint can be "served" either in person or by mail. The individual serving the complaint is called a "process server." The process server may ask if you will "accept service" for the University or other defendants.

Personal Service

  • If a process server asks you to accept service of a civil complaint on behalf of the State of California, the Board of Trustees of the California State University, and/or California State University, Fullerton, DO NOT ACCEPT SERVICE! Refer the process server to the Office of General Counsel for the CSU located at the Chancellor's Office in Long Beach. You may give the process server the address to the Chancellor's Office.
  • If you have been named as a defendant, you may accept service for yourself.
  • If any other individual has been named as a defendant, DO NOT ACCEPT SERVICE! Only that individual or his/her authorized designee can accept service. NEVER GIVE THE PROCESS SERVER ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION ABOUT ANOTHER EMPLOYEE, SUCH AS AN EMPLOYEE'S HOME ADDRESS OR TELEPHONE NUMBER.

Contact the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management if you have any questions about whether to accept service of a complaint.

Service By Mail

If you receive a civil complaint by mail, write down the date you received the complaint and forward a copy of the complaint to the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management.

Notify the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management as soon as possible if someone attempts to serve a complaint or if you receive a complaint in the mail.

How to determine whether to accept service of a complaint filed in Small Claims court.

If an individual asks you to accept service of a complaint filed in Small Claims court, please refer that individual to the Office of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion. Do not accept service on behalf of the State of California, the Board of Trustees of the California State University or California State University, Fullerton. If the Small Claims complaint names an individual as a defendant, only that defendant or his/her designee may accept service. Notify the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management as soon as possible if someone attempts to serve a Small Claims Complaint or you receive a Small Claims Complaint in the mail.

How to respond if you have been personally named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the University.

If you have been named as a defendant in a lawsuit and served with a complaint, you should write down the time and date you were served or received the complaint and forward that information and a copy of the complaint to the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management. It is important that you notify the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management as soon as possible because there is a prescribed period to file a formal written response to the complaint after it has been served and several steps may be necessary before the response is made.

Do not destroy any documents, including e-mail messages, related to the allegations raised in the complaint. If you are contacted by opposing counsel about the complaint, please refer them to the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management. If you make any comments outside of the presence of a lawyer, you could be subject to questioning by the plaintiff's lawyer about those comments, and they could potentially result in broadening the scope of claims made against the University or you personally.

How to request legal representation from the University.

You have the right in any litigation where you are named as an individual defendant to be represented by your own counsel at your expense. However, the University will offer to defend you if the complaint alleges that you did something, or failed to do something, within the scope of your employment as long as your conduct is not the result of fraud, corruption or malice and your defense does not conflict with the University's interests. Representation is not dependent on the University also being named as a defendant in the complaint.

Provided that your conduct is not the result of fraud, corruption or malice and if you have cooperated in your defense, the University may pay your legal fees and costs, and any judgment against you. Whether the University will pay a judgment is not dependent on whether the University is named as a defendant or whether the University is named in the judgment.

If you would like the University to represent you in a case after you have been served, please complete a Request for Representation formOpens in new window  and return it to the Office of University Counsel or the Office of University Risk Management.