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How should business owners respond to a lawsuit?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2020 | business litigation

Business owners know that once they enter the business world, it is likely that they will face a serious legal issue at some point in their careers. However, sometimes a high-risk lawsuit can crop up without warning, whether it is from another business, a business partner or even an employee.

Here is a brief overview of what businesses should consider when served with a lawsuit.


Forbes reports that business owners should not ignore a lawsuit. This often only increases the risks their business faces. Instead, business owners should confront the lawsuit as soon as possible and provide a written response.

A carefully crafted, timely response can make all the difference for business owners when they are faced with a lawsuit. It cannot be emphasized enough, that the first thing you should do when served with a complaint is to CALL YOUR LAWYER! Preferably, an experienced business litigator, who will protect both your procedural and substantive rights. There are also very strict and short, time requirements so it is critical you contact your lawyer as quickly as possible. Once a lawsuit is filed and served on you, the chances of you being able to talk your way out of it is remote, and anything you say will inevitably be held against you, making your attorney’s job that much harder.

The basic items your attorney will address with you are as follows:

  • Service: The date, time, place and manner in which you were served to make sure it was all proper and the timing for filing a responsive pleading can be properly calculated. Your attorney will also determine whether the case was filed in the proper courthouse (whether federal or state, proper county and proper venue).
  • Related Information:Be ready to supply your attorney with the entire package of documents served on you (or your company), all contracts, correspondence, emails, and notes in any way related to the subject matter of the complaint.
  • Addressing the claims:Filing an answer does not admit fault of any kind. It merely allows you to answer the claims brought against you. If the complaint is defective, your attorney may recommend filing a motion to dismiss instead. Your attorney may also determine that you are entitled to file a cross-complaint for damages to which you may be entitled.
  • Consider terms of negotiation:At certain strategic points during the litigation there may be opportunities to negotiate a resolution. There are also procedures to mediate the case and have the judge conduct a settlement conference.