WHAT IF I GET SUED?

By Robert B. Rosenstein

No matter how sophisticated a Client may be, there is always a sense of concern and fear upon learning that litigation has been filed against them. Knowledge of a lawsuit comes when a Summons and Complaint are served. Irrespective of size, odds are that every business will someday be sued. Remember, if you are sued do not panic; seek qualified legal assistance immediately.

Litigation is the formal means by which parties seek the assistance of the Courts in order to resolve a dispute. Sometimes a contract will provide for arbitration, which may be quicker and less expensive than a lawsuit filed with the Courts.

Litigation is commenced when one party files a legal action (the “complaint”) against another entity (whether an individual or a business entity). The party commencing the action is the Plaintiff and the person being sued and served is the Defendant. Generally the Defendant has 30 days after service to “respond” to the litigation (the rules are different as it relates to a small claims matter or an unlawful detainer action). There are several options available, which a qualified attorney may recommend and use, including challenging the complaint (demurrer), answering the complaint, and/or filing a cross action for damages that the person being sued may have suffered. It is important to remember that you are required by law to file a response to the original complaint, otherwise, you may be waiving your rights. If the Defendant fails to timely respond, the Plaintiff may take a default against the defendant, which means a judgment would be entered and the case is lost before it even begins.

Remember to be patient. Even though the legal problem may be paramount in your mind, the court system takes time and, in all likelihood, your legal matter will take anywhere from six months to two years. There is a process known as “discovery” whereby oral testimony and written documentation are obtained to determine all of the facts before a court hearing. Usually once all of the parties understand all of the facts, the parties are able to work toward a settlement of their problems.

I urge anyone who is sued, to seek advice from a business attorney who is well versed in litigation, to protect their rights. An attorney should be willing to meet with you for an initial consultation, at no cost.

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