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INQUESTS (Non-Attorneys only)



In General
Requesting an Inquest
Courtroom Procedure
Decision after Inquest

 

In General

An inquest is a hearing for the purpose of determining the amount of damages due on a claim. At an inquest, only the plaintiff is present because the defendant has failed to answer or appear in the action. At the inquest, the plaintiff must prove the allegations made in the complaint to the satisfaction of the Judge.

If you are representing yourself and have started an action, but have not received an answer from the defendant and the defendant’s time to answer has expired, you may request that the court hold an inquest on your claims.back to top



Requesting an Inquest

An inquest will not be held unless the defendant’s time to answer has expired. If the defendant was served by in-hand delivery, the defendant has 20 days to file an answer. If the defendant was served by other than in-hand delivery, the defendant has 30 days to answer beginning from the time the plaintiff files the affidavit of service of the summons and complaint with the court.

An inquest will also not be held in cases seeking payment on a debt unless you have sent the defendant additional notice of the action. A copy of the summons and complaint must be mailed to the defendant in an envelope marked Personal and Confidential at least 20 days before the entry of a judgment. The envelope may not indicate that it concerns an action against the defendant. You will need to fill out an affidavit of service for the additional mailing and bring it with you to the inquest.

If the defendant has failed to timely answer, and you do not have an attorney, you may request an inquest by filling out an Inquest Request form and filing it with the court in the county where you filed the summons, or you may go to the Inquest Request form to submit your request by email directly to the Court. If you request an Inquest by email, you will be notified by mail of the court date. If you are unsure of whether the defendant has failed to answer, you can check with the clerk’s office. Refer to Locations to learn where to go in your county.

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Courtroom Procedure

On the court date, be sure to arrive early so that you will have time to get through the metal detectors. Go to the courtroom and listen for your name to be called on the calendar and answer ready when you hear your name.

When you go before the judge you will have to provide evidence as to the truth of the allegations in the complaint as you would at a trial. For example, if you are seeking to recover a sum of money that you are owed you must show that the defendant is responsible for the debt and how the debt was incurred. To do this, you may introduce into evidence an IOU from the defendant and testify that the money has not been paid back. Make sure you bring all your evidence and witnesses to court to prove your claims. To learn more, go to "How to Try or Defend a Civil Case When You Don’t Have a Lawyer," and read the trial section.

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Decision after Inquest

After inquest, the court will make a decision and direct a judgment based upon the evidence presented. The court may award a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The judgment may direct the payment of a money amount or may direct that something be done by one of the parties. If a judgment is granted after inquest, the plaintiff must ask the clerk to have the judgment entered in order to start enforcing the judgment. Refer to Entering Civil Judgments to learn more about this procedure.

It is important to keep in mind that the testimony in an inquest is being submitted to the court without the other side being able to object to its truth. If, after a judgment is entered, a defendant is able to show by means of a motion or an order to show cause that the default was beyond his or her control and that there is a good defense to the action, the court may vacate the judgment, restore the case to the calendar and allow a trial on the merits. Go to Vacating a Judgment to learn more about this procedure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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