How Do I Name the Defendant?

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It is very important to name the defendant or defendants correctly when you prepare your court forms.

If you don't know the defendant's correct name and only learn about it later, you can ask the judge to change (“amend”) your claim at the hearing. You also can file a request (a “motion”) with the court to amend the judgment at any time to show the judgment debtor’s (the defendant’s) correct name.

If you're not sure which of several possible defendants caused the problem, name each person or business you believe is responsible. The court will decide which defendant you named is legally responsible.

Here are some examples of ways to name a defendant: 

  •  An individual — Write the first name, middle initial (if known), and last name. For example: "John A. Smith."
    • If an individual has more than one name, list all of them (separated by the words "also known as" or "aka"). For example: “John A. Smith aka Jack Smith.”
  • A business owned by an individual — Write the names of both the owner and the business. Example: "John A. Smith, individually and doing business as Smith Carpeting, a sole proprietorship."  If you win your case, you can enforce your court judgment against both the individual and the business (such as personal and business checking accounts) in the names of either John A. Smith or Smith Carpeting.
  • A business owned by two or more individuals — Write the names of both the business and all of the owners that you can identify.  Example: By naming Suburban Dry Cleaning and its owners, John A. Smith and Mary B. Smith, you can collect from the assets of either the business or an individual owner. They can be sued as "John A. Smith and Mary B. Smith, individually and doing business as Suburban Dry Cleaning, and Suburban Dry Cleaning, a partnership."
  • A corporation or limited liability company — Write the exact name of the corporation or limited liability company. (Check the Secretary of State website Opens new window for the legal name.) You don’t name any person for a corporation (or LLC) from this state. For example: "Fourth Dimension Graphics, Inc., a California corporation."

    • If the corporation operates through a division, corporate subsidiary or fictitious business name, both should be listed. For example: "Middle Eastern Quality Petrol, a Delaware corporation, doing business as Fast Gas."
  • A vehicle accident defendant —Write the names of the registered owner or owners, and the driver. For example: If the owner and the driver are the same person, "Joe Smith, owner and driver." If the owner and driver are not the same, "Lucy Smith, owner, and Betty Smith, driver."




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