What is the Difference Between General District Court and Circuit Court?

—By John Merrick —

With a busy practice, it is tempting to set questions aside until there is enough time to provide a comprehensive response. But we know that our clients deserve a prompt and thorough response.

To provide excellent service to our clients, I’ve prepared detailed responses to common questions so that I can respond immediately. I tailor the response to the particular facts in each case.

One of the keys to providing a prompt response is to keep it simple and avoid getting bogged down by all the potential nuances. Save the nuances – “well, it depends” – for a conversation, or where the nuance actually applies to a client’s particular case.

The attached form answers the common questions of “Where will my suit be filed?” and “What is the difference between General District Court and Circuit Court?”

General District Circuit Court
To get the case started, file a Warrant in Debt and pick the Return Date, which is normally the date for the parties to appear and set the case for trial. Serve the defendant(s). To get the case started, file a Complaint and arrange to serve the defendant(s) with process (Summons + Complaint). Best practice is to serve written discovery with the Complaint.
The most you can recover is $50,000 (in a personal injury case).  

Generally, there is no limit on the amount of recovery in personal injury cases (although some case-types have “caps”).

The case will be decided by a judge. You have the right to a trial by jury.
The losing party has an automatic right to appeal to Circuit Court, where the case starts over.  

The losing party can appeal to the Court of Appeals, but the party will not get a new trial to start over unless there is a finding of error in the Circuit Court.


Litigation costs tend to be much lower. The greatest cost tends to be gathering the medical records and bills from your providers along with an affidavit from the records custodian.

Litigation costs can be very high and are often driven by filing fees, court reporter fees, transcript fees, expert fees, etc.

Medical expert testimony is not required (to prove causation a plaintiff can introduce her medical records or a doctor’s report into evidence with a proper affidavit).

Medical expert testimony is often required to prove the cause of the injury and the necessity of all claimed treatment.
Discovery is very limited (parties can obtain documents and things from non-parties with subpoenas duces tecum).  

There are multiple tools for discovery, including subpoenas, depositions, requests for production, requests for admission, and interrogatories.


Parties get a relatively quick trial date, usually within three to six months after filing suit. Parties often wait over a year for a trial date, especially for multi-day trials.

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