What to do if You are Sued

What is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is started against a person or company in Minnesota state courts by service of legal documents called a Summons and Complaint. The person or company bringing the lawsuit is known as the “Plaintiff.” The person being sued is known as the “Defendant.” The Complaint is a legal document in which the Plaintiff explains the factual allegations and legal claims being made against the Defendant. A Plaintiff typically starts a lawsuit by serving a Summons and Complaint on the Defendant in one of two ways:

  1. by delivering it to the Defendant personally or leaving it at the Defendant’s home with a person of suitable age and discretion; or
  2. by mail, if the Defendant agrees in writing to accept service of the Summons and Complaint by mail and signs a form reflecting this agreement. Keep in mind, the Defendant must agree to this type of service of process prior to receiving the mailing.

Answering a Lawsuit

You must answer the lawsuit in a timely fashion. An Answer is a legal document that responds to the factual allegations and legal claims in the Complaint. If you wish to contest the lawsuit, it is very important that you provide an Answer to the Plaintiff within the required time period, in Minnesota usually you must answer within 20 days. If you do not provide an Answer in a timely fashion, the Plaintiff may get a “default judgment” against you.

Default Judgment

If you ignore a lawsuit against you, you could be found to be in “default.” Under Minnesota law, when a Defendant does not Answer a lawsuit, a Plaintiff may ask the court for a default judgment. A default judgment is a court order requiring you to pay money or compelling you take some other action. The Plaintiff may use a variety of methods to collect a default judgment requiring you to pay money, including garnishment of your wages or bank accounts.

Do Not Ignore the Lawsuit

Under Minnesota law, a lawsuit may be started by a Plaintiff against a Defendant even though it has not yet been filed in court. As a result, a Summons and Complaint that is served on you will not necessarily include a court file number. Similarly, if you call the court to ask whether a lawsuit has been filed, the court may not be aware of the lawsuit (since, as just noted, a lawsuit can be started in Minnesota state court by serving you with it even though it has not been filed in court). Do not assume that a lawsuit is a scam simply because the court clerk has no record of it.

Consult a Lawyer Immediately

If you are sued, it is best practice to contact an attorney for legal advice and representation. You and your attorney should discuss the following:

  • when you were given the summons and complaint due to the timeliness of the matter,
  • who are the parties involved,
  • if you would like to counter-sue the Plaintiff and
  • what is the game plan is moving forward?

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