Deciding Who to Sue
Figuring out who to sue may not be as easy as you think. It is essential that you sue the right person or legal entity. You can lose your case if you sue the wrong person. For example, suing the wrong person on behalf of a business is a common mistake for self-represented persons. Below are some tips on suing the right person or legal entity.
To get started, look at any receipt or agreement that you have with the other side.
If you're naming an individual person, use the person’s full legal name. It is better to list the complete name to avoid any confusion. If you do not know what an initial stands for, see if you can find out. There is an amazing amount to information on the Internet plus other people in your community may know their full name. Sometimes the phone book may have the information. Make sure you rely on good information. Sometimes people have more than one name that they use. You should also list these other names -- for example, Sara Jane Whitcomb a/k/a S.J. Whitcomb (a/k/a = also known as).
TIP: For traffic accidents, you will generally sue the driver who caused your injury or property damage not the insurance company.
If you are naming more than one person, use each person's full name. List everyone that might be responsible for the harm you suffered. If you are not able to collect against one, you may be able to collect against the other. You would not want to file another lawsuit on the same incident. Remember that you must also serve each defendant with the court papers.
If you are suing a married couple, name both people and note “husband and wife” after their names. Try to avoid naming the wife as "Mrs. John Smith" since this defines the person by relationship. If John Smith divorced his wife and remarried, you would have the wrong person!
Suing a Business
There are several ways that a business can be organized to operation (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC, etc.). The choice generally determines who is liable (responsible) for the debts and bad acts of the business. In some cases, the business entity is considered a new legal “person.” You must sue the right person, whether it is a human person or an artificial legal “person.”
Sole Proprietorship - Name the person who owns the business, even if the person uses a fictitious name or trade name. Name all individuals who own the business and the business itself. For example, name "Anne Franklin d/b/a Mill Street Pots and Things" (d/b/a = doing business as).
Corporation - The corporation is a legal “person.” Use the full name, including the special abbreviations that indicate the status of the business such as Inc. You generally should not sue the owners or managers. You can sue a corporation in Maryland, even if the corporation headquarters are in another state. There will be a “resident agent” on whom you should serve the court papers. Find this information on the Maryland Business Entity Search by searching the name of the corporation.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) - The limited liability company is a legal “person.” Use the full name, including the special abbreviations that indicate the status of the business such as LLC. You generally should not sue the owners or managers. You can sue a limited liability company in Maryland, even if the company headquarters are in another state. There will be a “resident agent” on whom you should serve the court papers. Find this information on the Maryland Business Entity Search by searching the name of the company.
General Partnerships - Name all partners in your lawsuit and the name of the business. In a general partnership, all of the partners are liable for actions of the business. This is true even if you dealt with only one of the partners. For example, name "Anne Franklin and George Norton d/b/a Mill Street Pots and Things."
Limited Liability Partnership - Name the business and all the general partners. In this type of partnership, certain partners are protected from lawsuits. These are the “limited liability” partners. For example, name "Anne Franklin d/b/a Mill Street Pots and Things."
Depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation, there can be exceptions to this information. Figuring out who to sue when it's a business can be challenging. Consider consulting with an attorney.