As a business owner, receiving a summons for a lawsuit can be a stressful experience. Understanding the proper procedure to defend yourself and your business requires an understanding of legal terms and documents associated with your case. In a civil case, a person files a claim against another. The plaintiff is the party filing the lawsuit. The defendant is the party against whom the lawsuit is filed. Civil lawsuits involve disputes for a monetary award. These types of lawsuits encompass various conflicts, including property damage, non-payment of a debt, and contract disputes. Have you been served with a lawsuit? If so, seeking the counsel of a qualified business law attorney can mean the difference between successfully defending your position and losing a lawsuit. Business owners and officer must always take immediate action when a summons or subpoena has been served. Failure to act promptly could cause serious damage to the company. Business Litigation Attorney Michael Long What Is a Summons? A summons is an official court document requesting action on the part of the defendant. In a civil lawsuit, a summons notifies an individual or a company that they need to defend their position in a case. A summons provides case information, including: The name of the court issuing the summons; The name of the party receiving the summons; The case number; The names of the parties; A description of the case; and Information for the defendant on response procedure and deadline. In a lawsuit, personal service on the defendant is required for both the summons and complaint. What Is a Subpoena? A subpoena is a document the court uses to compel a person’s appearance at a trial, hearing, or deposition. A subpoena may also direct a person to produce documents or things. Subpoenas are served on individuals or companies referred to as non-party witnesses. A subpoena provides the following information: The court requesting your presence; The case number, party information, and the matter; The place, date, and time for your appearance; A statement of the penalty for failure to comply with terms of the subpoena. A subpoena for business records is a demand by the court to turn in specific evidence related to your business. The subpoena will provide the time frame and the particular business documents requested. If you object to the terms of a subpoena, you need to show that valid grounds exist to support the challenge. Grounds to challenge a subpoena include: Improper service; Documents requested are privileged or not relevant; The document request is too vague; Complying with the subpoena would be too difficult; The request violates the witness’s privacy rights; and Requiring the witness to respond would violate their Fifth Amendment rights. A subpoena, like a summons, is an official court document. The failure to comply with a subpoena has consequences. The requesting court may find you in contempt and charge a penalty. Penalties come in the form of monetary sanctions, imprisonment, or court orders requiring payment of attorney fees for the filing party. Why File an Answer? An answer is a response to the claim filed against you. Once you are served with a summons and complaint, proper notice requirements are satisfied. The summons will provide you with the deadline for filing an answer. If you do nothing, the party filing the lawsuit may ask the court to grant a default judgment. A default judgment typically gives the filing party everything requested in the lawsuit. If the court grants a default judgment against you, you may be able to ask the court to vacate it in certain circumstances. The most common reason for granting a request to vacate is where the plaintiff failed to satisfy proper notice requirements. The opportunity to settle your case is always possible. However, settlement negotiations typically do not begin until both parties have responded to the lawsuit. The presentation of evidence permits both parties to assess their respective positions to determine whether appropriate settlement terms exist. Contact Us Ignoring a lawsuit has serious implications. The knowledgeable legal team at BrewerLong understands the correct procedure and response to defend your position successfully. As a business owner, any diversion away from your operations to respond to a lawsuit means your business suffers. However, the consequences of failing to respond to a lawsuit may sink a thriving business. Our attorneys are available to explain all your legal options regarding your lawsuit. Since 2008, we have maintained an independent, relationship-focused law firm delivering legal services and client experiences of the highest caliber. Time is of the essence, so contact us today.