Ryan C. Young | Attorney
Small Business Law
“You’ve been served!” are not words uttered by the out of work AOL mail voice now working in a restaurant. These are words no business ever wants to hear as they translates to: “Gotcha, you are being sued and here are the papers (summons and complaint) that prove it!”
Usually in Virginia if your business has been served with a lawsuit (summons and complaint) you have 21 days to respond to it. A lot must be accomplished in that three-week period by a small business owner. Following are some steps to take some of the extraordinary stress away when you respond to your first lawsuit.
Consult with an Attorney Immediately
While you may be tempted to call the person who is suing you can give him a piece of your mind or try and resolve the case without going to court this is a bad idea. You may inadvertently say something that strengthens your opponent’s case. So while your first action should be to make a phone call, that phone call should be to an attorney experienced in the type of case you are involved in. For instance, if you’re being sued for sexual harassment hire an attorney who is experienced in litigation defending plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases. However, if you’re being sued for copyright infringement you need an attorney who is experienced in defending defendants in copyright infringement lawsuits. Your general business attorney may be a good source for finding a Virginia lawyer with the experience you need to defend yourself and your company in a lawsuit. He or she will have the knowledge about the legal procedures involved in your lawsuit. Your attorney can help you try to settle the case out of court or if the case goes to court your attorney can make arguments and question witnesses so that your defense will be well understood by both the judge and jury.
When Are You Required to Respond to a Lawsuit?
Failure to make a timely response to your lawsuit can result in the court finding on behalf of the plaintiff as you have offered no arguments. Filing on-time, even better early your response to a lawsuit is the best thing. Even in Virginia, while most cases have 21 days to respond certain circumstances may call for a different response date. You should consult with an attorney immediately about your case.
What Kind Of Response Should You File?
In most lawsuits the defendant files documents known as an “answer” which is a response that deals with every single allegation made in the complaint. When any part of the complaint is not answered, the court will consider that they are true.
However, there are other kinds of responses such as a change of venue, a demurrer (a statement that the allegations in the complaint are not sufficient is grounds for a lawsuit) and many other legal strategies available to respond to the Summons and Complaint.
Send the Court and the Plaintiff the Response
When your attorney files your response to the summons and complaint with the court must also send a copy to attorney person who is suing. Most of the time courts will request a “proof of service” as evidence that your opponent’s attorney has received an answer to his complaint.
As a general rule corporations and LLCs must have an attorney represent them in a law suit. This is more than just customary, most of the time is a legal statute. It’s a good one, there is not a person in the United States who is not familiar with that ancient adage, “a person that represents himself in court has a fool for a client.”
It cannot be stressed enough that you must contact an attorney immediately about representation. Remember, your attorney will need to familiarize themselves with the case in order to file a sufficient response. This is not something that should be done last minute.
Ryan C. Young | Richmond, Virginia | Business Attorney