Not Going Away: Dealing with a Lawsuit

         I'm not going away, I'm not going
                      Say goodbye forever, I'll wait for you in no man's land                                                                      [SOLO]

                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away
                                                           I'm not going away


Any Ozzy Osbourne fans?  His song titled- as you may have guessed- "Not Going Away" has an important lesson for your legal education.

Recently I have had a number of cases crop up that were new to me, but not new to the people being sued.  One of these equine cases was brought to me over 6 months after the case had commenced.  
Some people ignore lawsuits because they think they are being wrongfully sued, and therefore ignore the case out of annoyance or anger.  Some people ignore lawsuits because they think they can handle it on their own (while this is not technically "ignoring," a number of mistakes are often made in the course of attempting to defend on your own).  Some people ignore them because they don't want to call their liability insurance company and face a rate hike.  Some people ignore lawsuits because they think they are just going to go away (NB: go read the solo chorus to the song above).

Nope, not going.

Lawsuits generally do not "just go away."  They may go away if a plaintiff either represents him/herself and fails to appropriately prosecute the suit after the initial commencement of the action, or if a plaintiff stops paying his/her attorney, then the suit may not continue.
But what is likely to happen if you ignore the suit is that the plaintiff will continue to prosecute, the court will enter a default and default judgment against you, you will be ordered to appear in court for a debtor's examination (the plaintiff essentially has a free for all to find out where your assets are), and if you don't show up to that, then you will have a bench warrant ordered against you.

The earlier you deal with a lawsuit, the better your attorney can help you.  If you are sued by an unrepresented person then you can try settling the suit just between the two of you (especially if the case is in small claims court), if it can be handled in a calm and professional manner.  However, the very best plan of attack when you are served with intimidating legal papers is to call your attorney.  Even if the only attorney you know is your estate planning attorney, give him or her a call and you will be pointed in the right direction- either how to take the next step or a referral to a recommended attorney. 

When you are served with papers, there are three main pieces of information to give to your attorney on the phone: 1) Determine which court the case is in: small claims, civil, or criminal.  2) Take note who the parties are (there may be multiple defendants).  3) Pay attention to dates in the paperwork. 

One attorney recently wrote that his mere presence at a deposition was invaluable to his client:
"Just being there, in the chair sitting next to my client—that was enough to protect her from what undoubtedly would’ve been a field day for opposing counsel, who had summoned my client in an effort to collect a debt, who wanted the treasure map, to see for himself the proverbial X on the map where the loot was buried."
It is so important to deal with lawsuits as soon as possible, even when they seem frivolous or intimidating.  It will save you money and time in attorney fees and costs if your attorney doesn't have to correct or unwind errors in the case.  

And of course, the very best thing is to keep yourself from being sued at all!  This is best achieved by legally sound business dealings; liability prevention safety practices; and clear, upfront communication with clients and other acquaintances involved in your horse life.

Oh yes, if you are sued- don't discuss it with others, and please don't post it to Facebook or other social media!