It can be very stressful to be served with a lawsuit whether it be you personally or your business. The complaint should have been served with a summons that gives you instructions on what to do next. The most important action that you will have to take is appearing in the case. Appearing does not mean showing up at the courthouse. In this case you must draft a motion or answer to the complaint. You typically have 30 days to complete this step.
It is important that you act quickly to protect your legal rights and determine if this was an actual lawsuit or just the threat of a lawsuit. There are a lot of legal issues that need to be considered at this crucial step. Although 30 days seems like a lot of time to think things through, you do not want to waste any of that time before consulting with an experienced litigation attorney.
I have had many clients bring me a summons and complaint that they received three weeks ago and ask me to file a timely response to the complaint. Although not impossible it is very difficult to become fully familiar with the facts of the case, do reasonable amount of diligence and inquiry, determine if service was sufficient, draft an answer or motion and file it with court in a few days The first actions to take are:
1. Read the documents – you should review the document and see what is going on. You may not be the target of the lawsuit. You might just be a witness in a proceeding or being told to hold some documents for a case. Take note of any deadlines set forth in the documents. Make sure you understand what you are being directed to do.
2. Collect any information or documents – you are now on notice that a legal proceeding is commencing and you want to ensure that the evidence and information is not destroyed. Think through any important dates, messages, email etc. Write down some personal notes to help you remember important information. Keep this information for your attorney. Do not give information out without consulting your attorney.
3. Obey the order – make sure you comply with any orders issued by the court.
4. Contact your attorney as soon as possible – the one thing that is for sure is that you are now involved in a legal proceeding. Protecting your rights start from the moment you were served. The longer you wait to discuss your options with your attorney is potentially a loss of options you have going forward.
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