Your Business Has Been Sued… Now What?
When someone sues you or your business, knowing the steps to take and what to expect throughout the process is vital to ensuring everything moves along as smoothly as possible.
If your business has been sued, you need to hire experienced legal counsel as quickly as possible because the service of the lawsuit triggers a deadline for you to file an answer and appear in the lawsuit. If you neglect to seek legal counsel and timely answer the lawsuit after your business is served, you have exposed your business, and possibly yourself, to a default judgment. You should generally try to avoid a judgment of any kind being entered against your business, or you, at all costs.
What to Expect from Legal Counsel as You Prepare Your Defense
Once you have hired legal counsel, it is time to begin to prepare your defense. You and your attorney will need to prepare a pleading known as answer in which you deny the allegations asserted against you or your company. In addition, there might be other denials or defenses, such as affirmative defenses, available to your business that may be relevant and need to be properly plead. Thus, it is important to for you to spend some time going over the details of facts and circumstances surrounding your case with your attorney. Once an answer has been filed for your company, the pretrial/discovery phase begins, which can be lengthy.
The Pretrial/Discovery Phase
The Pretrial/Discovery Phase can take on many different forms, depending upon the type of case, but generally, it is the time when each party engages in discovery and learns more about the other side’s case, claims and defenses. During discovery, the plaintiff’s attorney may send various written requests asking you to answer questions or produce documents. Likewise, your attorney will most likely want to ask for the plaintiff to answer questions and produce documents. Learning more about each side’s case is what discovery is all about, by gathering this information, both sides can begin preparing to go to trial. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, the goals of discovery are generally to learn more about the allegations, prepare for trial, and also, through the information learned, to gain leverage to use in the courtroom or to enhance your bargaining position during settlement negotiations.
Thus, as mentioned earlier, it is very important to go over details of the case with your attorney, and be open and honest with your attorney. You will probably know the facts and details of the situation backwards and forwards; however, this information is new to your attorney. Therefore, when speaking with your attorney, make sure you cover all the facts and circumstances of the dispute, but also give your attorney access to speak with any employees of your company who might have been directly involved in the underlying dispute or have knowledge of the situation. It is essential that you explain the details regarding your case thoroughly, and do not take for granted that your attorney knows everything. What you might consider a small detail could be an important factor in your case.
Another commonly used form of discovery is a deposition. A deposition involves a witness giving oral testimony under oath usually at an attorney’s office. A court reporter is present to transcribe everything that is said during the deposition. The testimony elicited during a deposition can be generally used throughout the case for further discovery and/or during trial. You should expect to be deposed. Also, any of your employees who were involved in the dispute may be deposed as well.
Case Example: A Contract Dispute
If your company is sued over a contract dispute, you (or your company) need to provide copies of the contract at issue, as well as any other communications related to said contract (e.g., emails, texts, voicemails, etc.) and the dispute. If any payments were made pursuant to the contract, your attorney will need proof of such payments, such as copies of the receipts, cancelled checks, etc. In addition, you need to explain to your attorney the facts and circumstances that led to the dispute. The more information your attorney has, the better your attorney will be able to prepare a defense and engage in discovery.
An Open Line of Communication is Vital
Keeping the lines of communication open is vital. This flow of communication goes both ways: your attorney should be responsive when you have a question; and if your attorney has questions or needs documents, do your best to get them to him/her right away.
If your attorney wants to speak with you in person to go over something, schedule this meeting as soon as possible. Throughout the litigation process, the last thing your attorney wants is to be surprised by a “smoking gun” that could drastically impact the case. It is best to be forthcoming and honest with your attorney because these damaging or incriminating things you try to avoid or hide have a way of turning up at some point down the road. By letting your attorney know of a problem or an issue in advance, he/she will to work to minimize any damage that may result.
If you need to file suit, hire an experienced attorney who can file your lawsuit and prepare a petition. If you have been sued, hire an experienced attorney as quickly as possible. If you reside, or have a business, in or around Arlington, Flower Mound or Mansfield, Texas, and you need an experienced attorney, contact Harris Cook at 817-275-8765 to schedule your complimentary 30-minute consultation today.