If you have been sued, you are known as the defendant. The person or company who brought the lawsuit is the plaintiff. You have been sued if you have been served with a Summons and Complaint.
A Summons is legal document issued by the court at the time a lawsuit is filed. It advises the defendant that he or she is being sued and provides general information about the court, the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney. Most importantly, the Summons informs you have 30 CALENDAR days to respond to the lawsuit from the date of service. If a defendant does not respond to the lawsuit within 30 days, the plaintiff may request a default judgment, which means the plaintiff wins the case without doing anything because the other side did not respond in time.
The Complaint is the legal document (known as a “pleading”) which describes plaintiff’s allegations and the “remedies” being sought (i.e. what the plaintiff wants to get out of it). Common remedies requested are money or an injunction to stop the defendant from engaging in a specific action (such as stopping construction on a property) or demanding the defendant complete a specific action (such as delivering a product or service.)
Do Not Read Too Much Into The Complaint
Often times, people become upset when they first read the list of allegations in the Complaint. While this is understandable, do not read too much into the Complaint. Attorneys typically include every conceivable allegation in the Complaint, in part to avoid the need to amend it later on. Allegations in a Complaint are simply allegations and the plaintiff still needs to prove them over the course of the litigation.
This article is the first in a series of articles about what to do if you have been sued. Next up: “Were you Properly Served & Next Steps”.