Frequently asked questions about corporate litigation:
A civil suit is when one party sues another party to recover money or property, to enforce an obligation or contract or to protect some civil right. Civil suits involving $5,000.00 or less are generally heard in the Small Claims Court. In Small Claims Court the parties represent themselves and cannot be represented by an attorney. Disputes between individuals, neighbors, businesses, or contractors are civil matters that will be heard in either Small Claims or the Superior Court. The “Plaintiff” is the person or entity bringing suit and the “Defendant” is the person or entity being sued.
Q:Who can be sued in a civil court?
Generally, any individual, corporation, or other legal entity can be sued in civil court.
To be sued, the Plaintiff must file a Compliant with other required documents in the proper court and “serve” those documents personally on the Defendant. While certain exceptions allow service to occur by other means, in most cases, the Defendant must be “personally served” with the Plaintiff’s Complaint.
Generally, when a Defendant has been personally served with a Complaint, they will have 30 days to file a response. If the Defendant was not “personally served” but was “served” in an alternative manner which complies with the law, additional time will be available to file a response. A response may consist of an Answer which denies the Complaint, an Answer and a Counterclaim, which denies the Complaint and sues the Plaintiff, or an Answer and a Cross-Complaint, which denies the Complaint and sues the Defendant and a third party or a third party.
Q:What if I do not file a response in time?
If a response is not filed in time, the Plaintiff can begin Default proceedings whereby a Judgment is obtained by default. A Default Judgment is a Judgment that is entered against a Defendant who fails to respond. However, if the delay in responding is minor, a Defendant can request additional time to file a response from the Plaintiff and such a request is routinely granted. If a Default Judgment is entered against you, depending on the circumstances, the Default Judgment may be set aside. However, such a proceeding is costly to the moving party.
Q:What do I do if I have been sued and I want to sue the Plaintiff?
If a Defendant wants to sue the Plaintiff, the Defendant must file an Answer and a Counterclaim which is a Complaint against the Plaintiff. “Judicial economy” requires that all disputes between the parties which are related must be consolidated into the same proceeding or they may be lost altogether.
Q:What do I do if I have been sued but a third party is arguably liable to the Plaintiff?
A Defendant who has been sued for damages potentially attributable to a third party would add that third party to the lawsuit by filing a Cross-Complaint against the third party in addition to filing an Answer on their own behalf.